USAREUR releases details of force reductions in Germany
January 26, 2006
HEIDELBERG, Germany — The reshuffling of U.S. Army Europe continued Thursday with the announcement that dozens of Germany-based units will be inactivated, changed or moved later this year.
About 7,200 military positions and 11,000 family members will be affected, with about 4,800 positions being moved to the U.S. or elsewhere, and 2,400 being reassigned within Europe, according to Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, USAREUR’s deputy chief of staff for operations. In addition, 40 U.S. and 38 German civilians assigned to the units will be either moved or lose their jobs.
The moves are part of the Army’s plan to establish four combat brigades in Europe: the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker) in Grafenwöhr, Germany; a Combat Aviation Brigade in Ansbach, Germany; 173rd Aviation Brigade in Vicenza, Italy; and a rotating brigade, the Eastern European Task Force, operating in Romania and, possibly, Bulgaria. Other support brigades of various sizes will be stationed in the Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden areas and elsewhere.
While in places such as Grafenwöhr the U.S. military population will be increasing, a significant reduction will be made in Hanau and Babenhausen, Germany, and elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, guys like me had to go to their counterparts, the mayors and local politicians, and say, ‘I’ve got bad news for you,’” Hertling said. “Here’s what is happening, here’s our plan, so prepare your workforce.
“One of the big reasons we have kept this quiet and, quite frankly, secret for so long is because we’ve been working the details. We finally got all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted this week.”
Units affected also include ones from Ansbach, Vilseck, Darmstadt, Mannheim, Grafenwöhr, and Hohenfels in Germany, and Chièvres, Belgium. The affected units vary in size from small veterinary detachments to entire battalions.
For the inactivated units, the coming months will see soldiers counting and fixing equipment, large and small. The Army would then allocate the equipment as it sees fit, with some being sent to the U.S., some sent to units in Europe who need the equipment, and some possibly being sent to forward locations. For the soldiers of inactivated units, they will be assigned by Army personnel officials to other units who mix and match job specialties with unit needs.
Thursday’s announcement did not mean that the affected installations would be closing in the coming year, said Kim Walz, spokeswoman for the Installation Management Agency-Europe.
“As long as there are soldiers, civilians or family members remaining, our support will not diminish one bit. They will receive the same support and service up until the last person leaves the installations. We are not closing any garrisons based on today’s announcement.”
Any decisions to close installations would come only after the units and their soldiers settle into their final locations, she said.
The moves are part of a greater Army plan to establish self-contained brigades throughout the world that are able to respond quickly and en masse to fight wars or perform other operations.
USAREUR currently has about 62,000 soldiers stationed throughout Europe, and plans to reduce that number to about 24,000 in the next five years. The Wiesbaden-based 1st Armored Division is expected to be moved back to the U.S. around 2009 or 2010, Hertling said. But that time line could be affected by deployments and other world events.
Other supporting units of various sizes will concurrently be inactivated, changed or moved, the general said.
The moves follow an announcement in July that much of the Würzburg-based 1st Infantry Division’s personnel and assets would be departing Germany for the U.S. by the end of September.
In other recent U.S. military transformation moves, the U.S. Navy relocated its headquarters from London to Naples, Italy, and the Air Force closed its base at Rhein-Main, near Frankfurt, while increasing its capabilities at the Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases in western Germany.
Thursday’s announcement dovetails with the stated strategy of the U.S. European Command, the Stuttgart-based joint command that oversees U.S. military activity in Europe, including Russia, as well as Israel and most of Africa.
EUCOM believes its “arc of instability,” where nations and people are most likely to face war, famine and other turmoil, has moved east and south of Europe. The U.S. military has responded by increasing training and communication with militaries of the former Soviet bloc and with African nations.
In December, the U.S. announced it had reached agreement with Romania to establish joint military installations there. A similar agreement with Bulgaria is expected in the next few months.
The U.S. in recent years has also been training with militaries of northern African nations such as Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and others.
U.S. troops have been stationed in Germany since the end of World War II, and more than 10 million troops served there from 1950-2000, according to the Heritage Foundation.
Through the 1980s, some 250,000 troops were stationed continuously in the former West Germany. Many were positioned during the Cold War along the border with Communist-ruled East Germany and the Soviet bloc.
West and East Germany unified in October 1990. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it split into smaller nations. Many of those nations as well as former Soviet allies Poland, Romania, Hungary and others became independent or allied with the U.S. and western Europe, and the Cold War threat was greatly diminished.
A massive reduction of U.S. troops and base closures ensued. By 1993, only about 105,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Germany, and by 2000 the number had fallen to about 70,000.
Hanau units returning to the U.S.
The four units that will return to the U.S. in the summer of 2006 are:
Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1AD Aviation Brigade
2-501st Aviation Battalion
127th Div. Aviation. Support Battalion
Company A, 3-58th Air Traffic Services Battalion