German town fears loss of U.S. Army base




(Michael Birnbaum/ The Washington Post ) - An American flag flies off a German bar in Baumholder, Germany, where 4,500 Germans are surrounded by 13,500 Americans on a U.S. Army base slated for cutbacks. Many of Baumholder’s German residents fear that a base closure would radically change their town’s character and economic livelihood.
By Wednesday, March 28, 4:19 AM
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — For more than half a century, this garrison town in the rolling hills of southwest Germany has been a small version of America, with Ford Mustangs and pickup trucks from the U.S. Army base next door threading through its medieval streets.
Now, with the Pentagon’s announcement last month of major troop cuts that will slash by a quarter the Army’s presence in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, a long-standing institution of American cultural, political and military influence is slimming down. Thousands of America’s informal ambassadors are returning home.
and blue are being cut free with the pullback. Four of 12 Army bases in Germany will close, and Baumholder, a town of 4,500 Germans surrounded by 13,500 Americans on base — 4,300 troops, plus their families and other staff — faces a turbulent future. Many Germans here doubt the base will remain open much longer, although the Army has said it will eventually replace half of the 3,700 troops who will depart by October.
In a town where American uniforms fill dry cleaners’ racks and one restaurant has clocks for three time zones — Baumholder, Baghdad and New York — residents say a closure might shake loose their long-time tilt toward America.
“We think more American. What they are doing here, where are they going, what’s going to happen, a lot more than other German cities. Because it affects our lives,” said Ingrid Schwerdtner, a town council member.
Many fear that the decline of the American presence would spell the end for them, too.
“If they leave, Baumholder is going to turn into a ghost city,” said Thomas Kiefer, 44, a German tattoo artist who speaks English with a Mississippi drawl and was eating Popeyes chicken at his shop one recent evening. Eighty percent of his customers come from the Army base. “I got a lot of friends up there. I’m going to miss my buddies.”
Like many in the town, Kiefer is an amateur anthropologist of the differences between Americans and Germans. Americans rate favorably, Kiefer said.
“Germans, they come into the shop, and they think it over again and again,” deliberating over what kind of tattoo they want, he said. “Americans, they come in, and they know they want something.”
Kiefer said he has seen closures and disruptions related to the Americans: Years ago, he was a police officer on Hahn Air Base, which closed in 1993. It sat empty for years until it was reopened as an airport for budget airlines.
Just a few miles away, a shuttered U.S. military hospital in the village of Neubruecke was turned into an American-style college campus that focuses on sustainable development. But few in Baumholder are optimistic that they could find a use for the base if it closed.
Picking up the stakes
The American cutbacks are just the latest in a long drawdown since the end of the Cold War, when 277,000 soldiers were posted to Europe as a defense against a land war with the Soviet Union. Thousands of Americans poured into Germany in the years after World War II, spreading more than military might — culture, cars and music came, too. After the latest cuts, the U.S. Army will have about 30,000 soldiers on the continent. Other military branches will have an additional 40,000 people.
source:washington post

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

German town fears loss of U.S. Army base



(Michael Birnbaum/ The Washington Post ) - An American flag flies off a German bar in Baumholder, Germany, where 4,500 Germans are surrounded by 13,500 Americans on a U.S. Army base slated for cutbacks. Many of Baumholder’s German residents fear that a base closure would radically change their town’s character and economic livelihood.
By Wednesday, March 28, 4:19 AM
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — For more than half a century, this garrison town in the rolling hills of southwest Germany has been a small version of America, with Ford Mustangs and pickup trucks from the U.S. Army base next door threading through its medieval streets.
Now, with the Pentagon’s announcement last month of major troop cuts that will slash by a quarter the Army’s presence in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, a long-standing institution of American cultural, political and military influence is slimming down. Thousands of America’s informal ambassadors are returning home.
and blue are being cut free with the pullback. Four of 12 Army bases in Germany will close, and Baumholder, a town of 4,500 Germans surrounded by 13,500 Americans on base — 4,300 troops, plus their families and other staff — faces a turbulent future. Many Germans here doubt the base will remain open much longer, although the Army has said it will eventually replace half of the 3,700 troops who will depart by October.
In a town where American uniforms fill dry cleaners’ racks and one restaurant has clocks for three time zones — Baumholder, Baghdad and New York — residents say a closure might shake loose their long-time tilt toward America.
“We think more American. What they are doing here, where are they going, what’s going to happen, a lot more than other German cities. Because it affects our lives,” said Ingrid Schwerdtner, a town council member.
Many fear that the decline of the American presence would spell the end for them, too.
“If they leave, Baumholder is going to turn into a ghost city,” said Thomas Kiefer, 44, a German tattoo artist who speaks English with a Mississippi drawl and was eating Popeyes chicken at his shop one recent evening. Eighty percent of his customers come from the Army base. “I got a lot of friends up there. I’m going to miss my buddies.”
Like many in the town, Kiefer is an amateur anthropologist of the differences between Americans and Germans. Americans rate favorably, Kiefer said.
“Germans, they come into the shop, and they think it over again and again,” deliberating over what kind of tattoo they want, he said. “Americans, they come in, and they know they want something.”
Kiefer said he has seen closures and disruptions related to the Americans: Years ago, he was a police officer on Hahn Air Base, which closed in 1993. It sat empty for years until it was reopened as an airport for budget airlines.
Just a few miles away, a shuttered U.S. military hospital in the village of Neubruecke was turned into an American-style college campus that focuses on sustainable development. But few in Baumholder are optimistic that they could find a use for the base if it closed.
Picking up the stakes
The American cutbacks are just the latest in a long drawdown since the end of the Cold War, when 277,000 soldiers were posted to Europe as a defense against a land war with the Soviet Union. Thousands of Americans poured into Germany in the years after World War II, spreading more than military might — culture, cars and music came, too. After the latest cuts, the U.S. Army will have about 30,000 soldiers on the continent. Other military branches will have an additional 40,000 people.
source:washington post

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