Year in Review 2007: Europe: Deployments, weak dollar make ’07 tough
The year 2007 was a trying one for many Americans based in Europe.
Thousands of troops were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from communities such Vilseck and Wiesbaden in Germany and Vicenza in Italy.
Thousands more from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division based in Schweinfurt, Germany, gutted out an grueling deployment in Baghdad, Ramadi and elsewhere. Those soldiers finally returned in November and December.
Families of Europe-based troops kept the home fires burning while praying and wishing for their loved ones’ safe return.
The year turned lean for those paid in American dollars. The dollar dropped in value from 0.77 euro to 0.68 euro, making off-post spending for entertainment, travel and necessities more expensive.
The British pound also became pricier: in January it was the equivalent of $1.96, and by November it had shot up to $2.07. By late December, a pound cost $1.98.
An ongoing downsizing of U.S. forces in Europe ground to a halt as President Bush approved a plan to keep Army brigades in Baumholder and Schweinfurt instead of moving them back to the U.S. as originally planned.
Meanwhile, indoor smoking was banned in Great Britain as well as in Germany, clearing the air for nonsmokers in pubs and restaurants.
FEBRUARYFeb. 6 The U.S. Africa Command is officially confirmed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates during testimony before the Senate. Its headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany.
Feb. 14 The Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team learns that it would be deploying to Afghanistan instead of Iraq as was previously announced. On June 5 at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad, the brigade formally took over responsibility for an area of operations in eastern Afghanistan from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
Feb. 17 More than 50,000 people demonstrated in Vicenza, Italy, against U.S. use of the Italian air base at Dal Molin. The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team plans to build facilities at the base to house the entire brigade, including four battalions now based in Bamberg and Schweinfurt, Germany.
MARCHMarch 6 The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division throws itself a party to celebrate its return to Friedberg, Germany, after a 14-month tour in Iraq. The community organized its own food, drink and entertainment after Installation Management Command-Europe announced it would no longer fund welcome-home parties, citing a money shortfall.
March 8 AAFES announces that silicone-tainted fuel was discovered at filling stations at RAFs Mildenhall and Alconbury, as well as dozens of gas stations throughout the region. The fouled fuel damaged oxygen sensors in cars. Two months later the supplier, Harvest Energy, paid nearly $59,000 to 85 U.S. claimants, with several more claims pending.
March 30 The Navy announces its two remaining U.K. bases and its last major command in the United Kingdom will close.
APRILApril 20 The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division cases its colors at Ray Barracks in Friedberg, Germany. The brigade’s 3,800 soldiers began clearing out of the city located north of Frankfurt. Schools such as Butzbach Elementary School would close its doors after the school year. In Büdingen, Giessen, Babenhausen, Hanau and Darmstadt, similar drawdown procedures are taking place.
MAYMay 7 The Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division learns it will deploy to Iraq in November. Controversy arises because the brigade’s Company A of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment would be getting only nine months of at-home dwell time instead of the 12 months mandated by Defense Department policy.
JUNEJune 7 London Central High School graduates its final class of students. It closed as a result of U.S. Navy and Air Force units downsizing in the London area.
June 26 Gen. John Craddock, commander of U.S. European Command, recommends to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the drawdown of troops in Europe be postponed. The drawdown was begun in 2002 under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
June 28 The $20 million Kaiserslautern Military Community Complex that is under construction is called a “white elephant” during congressional hearings. Investigators and auditors report the U.S. military’s largest single construction project is beset by poor coordination, vandalism, insufficient oversight, fraud allegations, shoddy work, faulty design and contractor work stoppages.
JULYJuly 20 Ten facilities and eight housing units were damaged after 5½ inches of rain fell at RAF Fairford. The flooding caused millions of dollars in damage to central England, left thousands without running water and caused major disruptions in road and rail networks.
July 31 Deployment to Iraq of the Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, is postponed from November until March. The postponement ensured that almost all soldiers in the brigade would receive a full 12 months of dwell time.
AUGUSTAug. 3 The 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment holds a deployment ceremony in Vilseck, Germany, in advance of its soldiers being sent to Iraq.
Aug. 17 U.S. and Romanian forces begin a two-month exercise in Romania to mark the start of ongoing rotations by U.S. troops to Romania and Bulgaria under the command of Joint Task Force-East. The command is based at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Constanta, Romania.
Aug. 23 Three British soldiers are killed in Helmand province, Afghanistan, from the explosion of a 500-pound bomb dropped by an American F-15E fighter jet. The jet was from RAF Lakenheath, England.
SEPTEMBERSept. 18 An Aviano, Italy-based Air Force pilot safely ejected from an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet that crashed in northern Italy. The jet crashed in a remote area and no one was hurt.
Sept. 26 DODDS-Europe changes a mercy rule that required football coaches to report only a 39-point margin of victory when the game’s final score was greater than 39 points. A new rule is instituted in which coaches can stop the game when it reaches a 39-point margin or continue it under agreed-upon conditions, such as by using only second-string players or letting the clock run to speed up the game.
Sept. 26 A $38 million Post Exchange/Commissary opens in Grafenwöhr, Germany.
Sept. 30 The submarine tender USS Emory S. Land pulls out of La Maddalena, Sardinia, marking the beginning of the end of the 36-year U.S. presence on the island.
OCTOBEROct. 1 The U.S. Africa Command declares initial operational capability and begins assuming oversight of the military’s activities on the African continent. Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward is confirmed by the Senate as its commander.
Oct. 4 Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson of the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command is found not guilty on all charges relating to the 2005 death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson. Two other soldiers were previously convicted of beating Johnson to death during a gang initiation.
Oct. 16 The USS Fort McHenry leaves Norfolk, Va., on a seven-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea as part of a program to help western African nations develop their security capabilities.
Oct. 28 The Wiesbaden, Germany-based 1st Armored Division headquarters assumes command of Multi-National Division-North in Tikrit, Iraq.
NOVEMBERNov. 2 An F-15C fighter jet crashes in southwest Missouri, prompting a worldwide, temporary grounding of several F-15 models, including some based at RAF Lakenheath.
Nov. 9 An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashes 22 miles southwest of Aviano Air Base, Italy, killing four airmen and two soldiers. The military has yet to say what caused the crash.
Nov. 30 Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald took command of Allied Joint Force Command Naples/U.S. Naval Forces Europe during a ceremony at the NATO base here.
DECEMBERDec. 19 President Bush approves an Army plan to delay moving Schweinfurt-based 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and the Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division to the United States until at least 2012, as part of a major realignment of Army units.
Dec. 27 Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, bans all airmen from using fireworks for the remainder of his command. The ban is one of several prohibitions imposed at Aviano this year. In November, Franklin banned all active-duty members from going off-base between 1 and 4:30 a.m. That curfew ended after two weeks. And in March, the base’s medical group commander banned smoking for all airmen in his command while they’re in uniform.
More year in reviewStability in the Pentagon and progress around Iraq
Japan: A year on the move
Okinawa: Deployments and deaths take a toll
South Korea: USKF Growing and expanding bases