Two Germany-based infantry brigades of the U.S. Army will be phased out as part of cutting defense expenditure and shifting focus to the Asia-Pacific region.
The 170th and 172nd Infantry Brigades are the Army units marked for elimination as part of an overall revamp of the U.S. military the Pentagon announced last month. The restructuring was aimed at cutting defense spending and shifting the focus to the Asia-Pacific.
The 170th Brigade will be inactivated in October this year and the 172nd a year later, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said in a statement in Heidelberg, Germany, on Thursday.
It said the Army's Europe force would see an overall reduction of around 2,500 soldiers over the next five years. While the force in Europe will be smaller, it will have the "capabilities and capacities necessary to support security and stability," the statement added.
The Stars and Stripes military newspaper reported that the Germany-based 81st Fighter squadron with 525 airmen and the 603rd Air Control Squadron in Italy having 336 airmen would also be phased out by 2013. Inactivation of the two Air Force squadrons would lead to the eventual elimination of the Army's V Corps from Wiesbaden, the newspaper reported quoting Pentagon officials.
As part of the restructuring, Army garrisons in Schweinfurt and Bamberg will close no later than 2015. The 81st Fighter Squadron, an A-10 unit consisting of 525 airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, comprising 336 airmen, will be inactivated by 2013.
"The [Defense] Department will begin a theaterwide capacity analysis as part of a comprehensive consolidation of its overseas infrastructure in light of these force posture changes," EUCOM said.
Besides, the U.S. Army Europe is slated to lose another 2,500 soldiers from small support units over the next five years adding up to a 25 percent reduction in manpower in Europe.
Currently, about 80,000 U.S. troops are based in Europe. The changes outlined by the Pentagon will reduce that number by more than 11,000.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, during a joint news conference on Thursday with his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere, said a substantial force would remain in Europe. "Despite these changes, over 40,000 U.S. troops will still be based in Germany, training at state-of-the-art facilities," he said.
"The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany is no complaint to me because a lot of troops will remain in Germany," Maiziere said.
Lt-Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of USAREUR, said the reduction would pose some limits on the Army's ability to train with allies though the units that remain would continue to play a key role in maintaining those relationships. "It's not going to really hurt, but we are going to have to reduce our partnerships," Hertling was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
Other Europe-based Army units also are critical to training allies, such as missile defense teams and signal troops, who do everything from preparing partners for an emerging missile shield mission to countering a growing cyberthreat, Hertling said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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