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Bernd Moser, lord mayor of Kitzingen, Germany, said he was not surprised to learn that several U.S. Army bases in his northern Bavarian city would be closing, but he was stunned to learn they would be vacated in slightly more than a year.

Bernd Moser, lord mayor of Kitzingen, Germany, said he was not surprised to learn that several U.S. Army bases in his northern Bavarian city would be closing, but he was stunned to learn they would be vacated in slightly more than a year. (Steve Liewer / S&S)

WüRZBURG, Germany — The news that the Army would soon close a handful of bases in northern Bavaria had been long expected, but that hardly cushioned the blow to German civic leaders when it finally came last week.

“My reaction wasn’t astonishment. I knew since a long time the closure will come,” said Lord Mayor Bernd Moser of Kitzingen, which will see all of its U.S. bases close. “What was astonishing was the planning on this, that it will happen so quickly.”

The U.S. Army Europe announced Friday that troops will leave five major bases and six smaller facilities in 2006, with the sites to be turned over to the German government by Sept. 30, 2007.

Many of the soldiers are from the Würzburg-based 1st Infantry Division, which is moving its headquarters and troops to Fort Riley, Kan., as part of the Army’s massive restructuring of forces from divisions into brigade-size “units of action.”

The major facilities shutting down include Larson and Harvey barracks and the Marshall Heights housing area in Kitzingen, Giebelstadt Army Airfield in Giebelstadt, and Faulenberg Kasern in Würzburg. USAREUR said two other major bases in Würzburg, Leighton Barracks and the Würzburg Army Hospital, will close eventually but didn’t announce a date.

The base closures will affect 6,100 soldiers, 2,000 German and American workers, and 11,000 family members in the three communities. Some units will deactivate, others will move to the United States, and still others will move elsewhere in Europe.

The U.S. Army Garrison Franconia, based in Würzburg, will lose one-fourth to one-third of its 45,000 soldiers and family members. The 1st ID units in Kitzingen and Würzburg mostly will leave through inactivation or transfer, while most troops in Giebelstadt will transfer to other nearby bases.

Moser said the departure of about 7,000 American soldiers and family members from Kitzingen — which has a total population of 22,000 — is a huge blow. But it is a blow the city has been planning for since last summer, when President Bush announced 1st ID soldiers would leave Germany.

Moser said Kitzingen has hired a consultant to study future uses for Harvey, Larson and Marshall Heights, and their recommendations are expected before the bases are turned over.

“We are on the way to prepare for this moment,” Moser said. “When the American soldiers leave Kitzingen, we will have these [reports] on our desks to decide what we will do.”

Harvey Barracks includes an airstrip the Army has rarely used since the 1980s. The post is adjacent to business and industrial parks, which suggest future uses for the land. Larson features barracks, a newly renovated gymnasium, a chapel, a movie theater, motor pools and an 18-hole golf course. Marshall Heights is heavily built up with apartments, two schools, a convenience store and bowling alley.

Ole Kruse, a spokesman for the city of Würzburg, expressed relief that Leighton Barracks and the nearby Army hospital will stay open indefinitely.

Although Leighton’s highest profile tenant, the 1st ID headquarters staff, will be leaving next year with 800 to 1,000 soldiers, the 69th Air Defense Artillery Regiment will move its 150-troop headquarters battery from Giebelstadt in late 2006, said 1st Lt. Eugene Hunt, the unit’s spokesman.

And the Franconia Garrison will consolidate about 1,400 military and civilian workers now at Faulenberg and Harvey on Leighton. According to Army policy, relocated units cannot move again for at least three years. Presumably, then, Leighton will remain open until at least 2009.

“Not many soldiers will be leaving,” Kruse said. “For Würzburg, it’s OK.”


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