WIESBADEN, Germany — The blueprint includes new headquarters facilities, housing units and a 164-room hotel, and last year a fitness complex and a child development center opened for business.

A ton of work still remains, but if things unfold as currently planned, Wiesbaden Army Airfield will supplant Heidelberg in about five years as the center of gravity for Army units and personnel based in Europe.

“We think Wiesbaden is the right place to” relocate Army headquarters, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of 1st Armored Division, said last fall while serving as U.S. Army Europe’s point man on transformation.

Hertling said some visiting members of Congress have questioned the move, though more out of astonishment over the Army’s decision to vacate historic Heidelberg after more than 60 years.

Heidelberg, one of the few large German cities not bombed to smithereens in World War II, is the only home USAREUR has known since its inception in August 1952.

Two of the main reasons for the move are the airstrip at Wiesbaden and security.

Whenever Gen. David McKiernan, the USAREUR commander, has to travel anywhere far for official business he must first fly by helicopter to Wiesbaden, where his plane is kept. A move to Wiesbaden would eliminate those flights.

Secondly, the security situation at Wiesbaden airfield is better because the facility is insulated by open farm land. In contrast, a busy public thoroughfare that has long been a security challenge runs alongside the headquarters compound at Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg.

The proposed move represents a significant and symbolic part of the overall plan to recalibrate the U.S. military’s posture in this hemisphere, from closing bases to reconfiguring units to decreasing the size of the force from 100,000 to 60,000.

Between the services, the Army is facing the most change.

In a few years, USAREUR, as an organization, will disappear, leaving the 7th Army in charge. The initial plan, Hertling said, had the headquarters moving to Wiesbaden in 2011. That timeline has shifted somewhat due to the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, the 1st Armored Division was scheduled to relocate to Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2009, but now that move has been put off for at least a year.

While there may well be significant changes to the transformation effort in Europe, the current plan calls for extensive construction within the Wiesbaden military community. One of the projects is the $34 million, four-story hotel complex, though there are dozens of smaller renovation projects yet to come.

Asked if the Army might acquire more land around the airfield, Hertling said that is possible, though he added there is quite a bit of property inside the fence.

“There may be a little bit of outward expansion,” he said, “We are working now with the German government out there to put some additional housing up.”

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