RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The last German troops to guard U.S. bases turned over security duties to American military and civilian security forces Wednesday, marking the end of more than three years of sentry support.

The U.S. Air Force thanked and bid farewell to German gate guards during a brief ceremony outside Ramstein Air Base’s West Gate. A second ceremony takes place at the Officers’ Club on Thursday.

While protecting U.S. bases in addition to their own installations challenged the German military, many German servicemembers reportedly liked the assignment.

Oberst (Col.) Claus Rosenbauer, a German air force commander, said many of his troops preferred working at a U.S. base to a German one because of the chance to work with their American counterparts, learn English and enjoy the many base amenities. Ramstein boasts a brand new fitness center, a large base exchange and numerous places to eat American food.

“Most would prefer doing this here because the environment is much more better than a German base,” said Rosenbauer, who commands German troops in the Rhineland-Pfalz area. “We don’t have a [base exchange], we don’t have gyms like that and we don’t have McDonald’s and those things.”

Some German servicemembers volunteered to work at U.S. bases and served as many as 15 tours, Rosenbauer said.

Ramstein Air Base and Sembach Annex are the last American military bases in Germany to say goodbye to German guards. The German military began guarding the bases at the request of the U.S. government just before U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003. The initial agreement called for German troops to help protect the bases for just 18 months, but the German government allowed the guards to stay longer at some U.S. bases.

“They’ve definitely done an outstanding job for all the duties they’ve been asked to perform here,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jason Livingston, the 435th Security Forces Squadron’s assistant operations officer.

Ramstein Air Base, the largest U.S. base in Europe with about 9,000 airmen, saw around 14,500 German troops provide guard duties. Most of the German guards rotated in teams of 140 and served about a month at a time.

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