US Signal Command in Europe inactivates as part of overseas restructuring plan

By DAN STOUTAMIRE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 4, 2017

WIESBADEN, Germany — The U.S. Army’s 5th Signal Command cased its colors in a ceremony at Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden on Friday, marking the end of its 43 years as the leading military signals unit in Europe.

The inactivation is part of an Armywide restructuring effort announced last year. Under the plan, theater signal commands such as the 5th are being replaced by a combination of signal brigades and forward-deployed soldiers and civilians from the Army’s Fort Huachuca, Ariz.-based Network Enterprise Technology Command.

Europe will be the testing ground for this new concept, Maj. Gen. John Baker, NETCOM’s commanding general, said after the ceremony.

“This is not worldwide yet,” he said. “This is an opportunity to demonstrate this concept, and then our Army has a decision to make, if they want to take it to other locations.”

NETCOM’s tactical command post, or TAC, will include about 50 soldiers and civilians, Baker said. It will replace the hundreds of members of the signal command.

“I’m working to make it business as usual and transparent,” he said. “We have some work to do to achieve the same level of support, as the signal command a few years ago had hundreds (of people) is being replaced by a TAC of 50.”

TAC members will serve normal overseas tours — up to three years for servicemembers and five for civilians — rather than coming over on a rotational basis, Baker said.

For most of its history, 5th Signal Command was based in Worms, Germany, a historic cathedral town on the Rhine famous for its dragon-slaying hero Siegfried of the Nibelungenlied saga. The association led the command, then under now-Maj. Gen. Chuck Sutten, to adopt the dragon as its symbol in 1995. The command’s leadership recently visited the city to bid farewell and unveil a plaque at its former home of Taukkunen Barracks, now back in German hands.

“Well, it’s bittersweet,” Sutten, who is now retired, said of the inactivation, where he was a guest of honor. “It’s been an integral part of (U.S. Army Europe) and this theater. While their name might no longer exist, I think their legacy will continue for many years to come.”

The command moved from Worms to Funari Barracks in Mannheim in 1996, and finally to Wiesbaden in 2009.

Col. Rob Parker, the command’s final leader, said the unit has made a worthy contribution to the story of U.S. forces in Europe.

“As with any good book, the next chapter awaits,” said Parker, who will continue to serve in Wiesbaden as USAREUR’s top signal officer.

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Col. Rob Parker, left, the 5th Signal Command's last commander, and 2nd Signal Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rowland case 5th Signal's colors at the unit's inactivation ceremony at Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, Germany, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017.

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