Schweinfurt gets mixed signals about future
September 21, 2008
It’s not on the enduring list, but five years into Army transformation, it is still not scheduled to close.
It has lost combat units to the U.S. and to Grafenwöhr, but is getting a newly activated engineer battalion, as well as signal troops and military police. In fact, in transformation moves announced last month, Schweinfurt, Germany, was to gain 949 soldiers and some 1,433 family members.
If U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt and the Army were dating, Schweinfurt could complain about getting mixed signals.
Will Schweinfurt, which once housed and trained 1st Infantry Division soldiers "charged with the vital mission of maintaining the forward edge of freedom in Western Europe," go the way of scores of U.S. bases shuttered and left by the U.S. in recent years? Or will it be like Baumholder, which spent years in limbo before being added to the enduring list?
"It is for us a question mark as well," said Col. Lew Boone, U.S. Army Europe spokesman.
Right now, USAREUR officials say they’re planning for the base’s eventual closure, perhaps in 2014, as part of the force restructuring that returned the 1st ID to the States.
"This plan reflects the Army’s decision in December 2007 to return two Heavy Brigade Combat Teams from Europe in 2012 and 2013. Our basing plans will remain unchanged until the [U.S. European Command] commander or Army leadership modify their European force structure requirements in Europe," officials wrote in a statement.
But as former USAREUR commander David McKiernan said in 2006 when asked about the future of Schweinfurt and Baumholder: "Things change every day."
Even the German city’s leader is unsure of the base’s future. The city wasn’t even aware of the Army’s plans to add troops in the coming years.
"Up to this time, I have not heard anything at all that the US. Army intends to increase their troop level in Schweinfurt," Mayor Gudrun Grieser said Thursday.
"However, people in Schweinfurt always had a good relationship to the soldiers and their families. We are certainly glad to hear that more Americans will come to Schweinfurt."
Schweinfurt has a great infrastructure, Grieser said, which might be one of the reasons why it is of interest to the U.S. Army.
A year ago, McKiernan and EUCOM commander Gen. John Craddock recommended changes to the 2002 plans that would have seen the Army’s troop strength in Europe drop from 62,000 soldiers to 24,000. McKiernan said four combat brigades should stay in Europe, rather than two — a Schweinfurt-based brigade, a Baumholder-based brigade, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Italy and the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment at Vilseck.
McKiernan said he believed a larger forward presence was essential for national security, NATO partnership and engagement with other militaries. He said he worried about Russia, Kosovo and the Caucasus region.
"I’m not sure that I would subscribe [to the idea] that peace has broken out everywhere, and everybody needs to come home to the United States," McKiernan said.
And that was before Russia invaded Georgia.
In December, the announcement came that brigades in Baumholder and Schweinfurt would delay their return to the U.S. by a few years. Months later, it was announced that Baumholder would be an enduring base. Officials cited the training areas, quarters and friendly relations with local Germans as reasons for the decision. But plans call for combat support units to be put there, not a brigade combat team, officials said.
Schweinfurt has remained on the non-enduring list, said to be "key and critical" until its eventual closure. Before he left USAREUR this spring, McKiernan said he hoped the decision would be reconsidered.
Comings and goings at Schweinfurt
From Jan. 1, 2008:
The first elements scheduled to move from Schweinfurt are:
Headquarters Company, 2/1ID1st Battalion, 26th Infantry (now 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment) *1st Battalion, 77th Armor (now 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment)*504th Military Intelligence Company57th Signal CompanyE Troop, 4th Cavalry (E Troop, 5th Cavalry Regiment)2 maintenance support teams from the 299th Forward Support Battalion (now 172nd Support Battalion) 2-28 Infantry and 3-66 Armor battalions have already relocated to Grafenwöhr.*The second wave
The following Dagger Brigade units will relocate from Schweinfurt to Grafenwöhr as additional space is available within the next two years:
1st Battalion, 18th Infantry (now 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment)1st Battalion, 7th Artillery (now 1st Battalion 77th Field Artillery)9th Engineer BattalionThe remainder of the 299th Forward Support Battalion (now 172nd Support Battalion)Fiscal 2009 actions
7th Tactical Theater Signal Brigade in Mannheim to relocate to Schweinfurt.The 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion in Mannheim to relocate to Schweinfurt.The 596th Engineer Company (Horizontal) activates in Schweinfurt.The 535th Engineer Company in Grafenwöhr to relocate to Schweinfurt.*Additionally, as a result of this decision, the 15th Engineer Battalion will activate in Schweinfurt, during fiscal 2008, as opposed to Grafenwöhr as was announced in September 2007. This change has minimal impact on personnel since the unit has not yet been established.