April 11, 2005 USAREUR headquarters to move By Vince Crawley Times staff writer The U.S. Army in Europe plans to move its headquarters from the picturesque university town of Heidelberg, Germany, to more utilitarian quarters in Weisbaden as part of consolidations aimed at cutting its number of Europe-based soldiers from 62,000 to 24,000. The Army also wants to bring the 1st Infantry Division home from Germany as early as next year, USAREUR commander Gen. B.B. Bell said in a message to his troops. The 1st Armored Division would return to the United States in 2008, Bell said April 7 in one of his periodic messages, known as âBell sends.â âWe hope to begin moving the 1st Infantry Division back to CONUS [the Continental United States] as early as 2006 and the 1st Armored Division back to CONUS starting about two years later,â Bell said. The shifts have long been in the works, though Bellâs message offers the most details to date and puts an official stamp on plans that until now existed mainly in draft form. The Army Times first reported on draft plans to withdraw from Heidelberg in late 2001. On March 1, Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, chief of the U.S. European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that his preference was for the 1st Infantry Division to leave Europe about 2007. In addition, Jones said the Army plans to consolidate its Europe-based helicopter assets into a âmultifunction aviation brigadeâ in the Ansbach/Illesheim area of Bavaria in Southern Germany. Jones has been one of the main drivers in the Pentagonâs push to remove about 40 percent of U.S. forces from Europe and create multiservice forces that are more agile and less tied to Cold War-era bases. Bellâs message said the Army in Europe will consolidate around four hubs â Grafenwoehr, Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden in Germany, and Vicenza, Italy. Wiesbaden, west of Frankfurt, is expected to be the future home of a new headquarters that will combine USAREUR with its major subordinate command, V Corps. The new headquarters will include a deployable command post and other subordinate âtheater-enabling commands,â Bell said. Wiesbaden is now the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division. Bell stressed that the unit moves and their dates have not yet received final approval. Heidelberg, with its narrow, winding medieval streets, is now home to about 16,000 U.S. service members, family members and defense civilian employees.Iit has hosted U.S. forces for 60 years, in part because it was one of the few German cities to be virtually untouched by the devastation of World War II. It became headquarters for U.S. constabulary forces after the war. Famed wartime commander Lt. Gen. George Patton died in the Army hospital in Heidelberg following an automobile crash in 1945. U.S. Army Europe was formally established in the city in 1952 as part of the Cold War buildup of forces. In Grafenwoehr, near the Czech border, the U.S. Expeditionary Training Command will work with the militaries of foreign allies, including forces from new NATO members in Eastern Europe. The area will also be home base for an Army Stryker brigade, Bell said. Kaiserslautern, near the borders with France and Belgium, âwill constitute our major service-and-sustainment hub,â Bell said, âwhere theater logistics and medical support will be concentrated.â Kaiserslautern is co-located with the Air Forceâs Ramstein Air Base and the Armyâs Landstuhl medical center, the first stopping point for most service members who have been wounded in and evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan. The Vicenza area in northern Italy will include an expanded 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team as well as a deployable command post of Task Force 5, the new designation of V Corps headquarters. âOver time, our soldier population could increase by more than 1,000 in the Vicenza area,â Bell said. The 24,000 Army soldiers remaining in Europe after the restructuring âwill be stationed with families on modern, full-service bases,â Bell said. However, the Army and U.S. European Command are âworking to establish a rotational force (without families) presence in Eastern Europe,â Bell said. âOur vision calls for up to brigade-sized rotations of various types of forces (heavy, Stryker, airborne). We expect to have this rotational force fully operational in the 2008 timeframe.â These forces would rotate from the United States on short-term missions and will be overseen by a âsmall, deployable command post similar to the one we will have in Vicenza,â Bell said.