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HEIDELBERG, Germany — “The art of losing isn’t hard to master;/so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost, their loss is no disaster,” a poet wrote.

U.S. Army Europe commanders disagree completely.

They’ve sent out memos over the past couple of years noting the dangers of lost military ID cards — an average of 8,000 a year for the past four years throughout the European command — and enacted policies attempting to curtail the cards’ losses.

But the losing streak has continued. In the first three quarters of 2007, an average of 748 cards were lost each month in U.S. Army Europe, for an estimated yearly total of 8,976 lost cards — even as the number of soldiers and dependants have decreased substantially through Army transformation.

Those figures prompted a memo stating a policy that officials say represents a tougher, more scientific approach.

Sent out in November by Brig. Gen. Susan Lawrence, 5th Signal Command commander — and the senior mission commander for the garrisons of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Darmstadt and Stuttgart — it requires significantly more data tracking.

Garrisons must now track exactly who’s losing IDs, how, and whether they’ve lost an ID before. It requires in-person counseling for card-losers, by a lieutenant colonel or civilian equivalent in their chain of command.

Although family members who lose IDs can’t legally be forced to attend the counseling, they are being encouraged to do so.

“Gen. Lawrence pushed this,” said LeeAnne MacCallister, 5th Signal spokeswoman. “We’ve already tracked the first quarter. We’re still in the process of getting enough data to see patterns and affect change.

“The teeth is … we know who they are and we know who their bosses are.”

Each time an ID card is lost or stolen, “the chance of an unauthorized individual obtaining access to our installations increases,” Gen. David McKiernan wrote in a November 2006 memo.

McKiernan’s memo, which told commanders to track the lost IDs in their commands, followed an April memo from Heidelberg’s garrison commander. He’d written that nearly 3,000 IDs were gone already in 2006, and that ID card holders had to report lost cards to their chain of command before receiving new ones — instead of reporting it only to military police, who are responsible for seeing that the card is inactivated.

But officials say despite the potential, no security breeches have occurred because of a lost ID.

Surprisingly, nearly half of lost IDs are lost on post, according to U.S. Army Europe. “Trend data shows that 49% of lost/stolen ID cards occurred on-post; 24% occurred off-post and 27% were in unknown locations,” officials wrote in an e-mail.

It wasn’t clear how people knew where they lost the cards.

Psychologists say people should put things in designated places, consistently. They should also check that they’re bringing everything they need before leaving the house.

Tracking lost ID cardsWho loses their ID cards? According to new statistics gathered to try to get a handle on the problem, just about everybody.

How it breaks down:TOTAL LOST

Stuttgart - 119Heidelberg - 208Mannheim - 190Darmstadt - 59WHO LOST THEM?


Enlisted - 28Officer - 12Civilian - 19Family Member - 60HeidelbergEnlisted - 46Officer - 5Civilian - 42Family member - 115Mannheim

Enlisted - 59Officer - 3Civilian - 34Family member - 94DarmstadtEnlisted - 21Officer - 2Civilian - 15Family member - 21REPEAT LOSERS

Stuttgart -10, including two for a fourth time.Heidelberg - 28, including six for a third time, two for a fourth and two for a fifth time.Mannheim -13, including three for a third time, one for a fourth time and two for a fifth time.Darmstadt - 9, including three for a third time and one for a fourth time.Source: 5th Signal Command

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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