Transformation swelling ranks at Grafenwöhr, Vilseck
July 9, 2006
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The influx of 3,500 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldiers to Vilseck is having a flow-on effect on nearby Grafenwöhr, where officials expect the population to soon be more than double what it was last year.
In an interview Thursday, a year to the day after he took command at U.S Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, Col. Brian T. Boyle said he expected 1,000 additional soldiers to be at Grafenwöhr by the end of summer.
The base is expanding from a 1,000-soldier garrison with 2,000 military family members — according to April 2005 figures — to a brigade-size facility with 4,500 active-duty soldiers and 7,000 family members by 2008. The Army is spending $600 million upgrading the base to accommodate the new arrivals, garrison officials said.
Boyle said several units had arrived or were arriving at Grafenwöhr this year. The 12th Chemical Company recently moved here with 150 soldiers from Harvey Barracks in Kitzingen, he said.
Later this summer, the 69th Signal Battalion will shift from Würzburg to Grafenwöhr. The unit has only 50 soldiers, but includes a large number of civilians, Boyle said.
Grafenwöhr has also seen an influx of units moving from Vilseck to make way for the Strykers. So far this summer, 200 soldiers from the 41st Transportation Company, 120 from the 529th Ordnance Company and 25 personnel from the 561st Medical Detachment have moved from Vilseck to Grafenwöhr, Boyle said.
“By the end of this year, the total increase at Grafenwöhr will be about 1,000 soldiers. A thousand more soldiers will arrive next year and another 1,000 in 2008,” he said.
Meanwhile, at Vilseck, 1,500 2nd Cav soldiers are on the ground with more arriving every day, Boyle said.
“The end state will be between 3,200 and 3,500 2nd Cav soldiers by the end of summer,” he said, adding that eventually as many as 3,900 2nd Cav troops could be at Vilseck to bring the unit up to deployment strength.
“At the end of this summer, 22,000 to 25,000 people (American soldiers and civilians) will be at Vilseck and Grafenwöhr. At the end state (by the end of 2008), it will be 32,000 to 35,000,” Boyle said.
The influx is creating off-post housing shortages. Grafenwöhr housing office staff said last week that they had no houses available to rent and only apartments on their books.
Boyle said the goal was to provide housing for people supported by USAG Grafenwöhr within 30 minutes’ drive from their places of work.
The massive turnover in personnel is a major change in the way USAG Grafenwöhr does business, he said.
“Normally, you get about a 30 percent turnover each year in the military population, which typically do three-year tours. This year, we are turning over 50 to 60 percent of personnel in Grafenwöhr,” he said.
The good news is the community at large is replacing an organization that was there before — 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. So it has to find room for only 500 to 600 more soldiers than there were before, Boyle said.
The Vilseck influx has seen the creation of two new battalion headquarters, in buildings that were equipment-testing facilities, to house 2nd Cav’s artillery and reconnaissance and surveillance squadrons.
The 3rd Brigade, 1st ID had fewer battalion headquarters at Vilseck because its artillery was based at Bamberg, Boyle said.
The growth at Grafenwöhr and Vilseck is something that makes command of the garrison a particularly satisfying job, he said.
“Here we have demonstrable growth going on, as opposed to some of my peers who have to do different things,” he said, referring to drawdowns of troops at other bases in Europe.