HEIDELBERG, Germany (Army News Service, Oct. 31, 2006) - In a speech before a gathering of military retirees, Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. Army Europe, noted that they saw the Cold War end and the war on terror begin. Accordingly, he said, they will live through more major events in Europe as the command continues changing to meet future missions and threats.

Addressing almost 300 people Oct. 21, McKiernan said: "You can recall what the Army in Europe looked like during the Cold War AfA(R) A,A(th) more than 200,000 Soldiers assigned in theater."

During that era, the general said, 39 major U.S. Army communities dotted the continent. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, USAREUR shrunk to its present size of about 55,000 active-component Soldiers.

During the next five to seven years, McKiernan added, more USAREUR units will move to the continental United States.

"What that means for Europe," McKiernan said, "is that there will be about 28,000 Soldiers in Europe. That is about half of what we have today."

Additionally, USAREUR is consolidating into five "hub" communities in Germany (Wiesbaden, Ansbach, Grafenwoehr and Kaiserslautern) and Italy (Vicenza).

Recapping recent events such as the 1st Infantry Division\'s stateside return, the 173rd Airborne Brigade's growth into a brigade combat team and activation of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, McKiernan noted that more changes are on the horizon.

Several USAREUR units currently supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom will move to the United States or inactivate once they return to Europe, he said. The 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade will head to Fort Bliss, Texas, next year while the division's two remaining brigades and headquarters will continue to train and support war on terror operations.

And after it returns home, V Corps headquarters will begin a merger with USAREUR to become the 7th Army, a war-fighting headquarters.

Rounding out the future USAREUR: stateside and European-based combat teams will eventually pull six-month long rotations to forward operating bases in Bulgaria and Romania.

McKiernan said despite such changes, USAREUR continues to honor and support its retirees.

"We intend to take care of you today and while you live here," he said.

Brig. Gen. David Rubenstein, commander of the U.S. Army Europe Regional Medical Command, promised that his unit will uphold the medical care portion of McKiernan's pledge.

Because of changes in the Army's heath care system and closure of installations in Europe, retirees and their families will not always receive treatment in military facilities, he said. However, retirees can receive care from local providers and some facilities will see retirees on a space-available basis.

"We are going to maintain the promise that the Army and America made to you: to ensure that you have health care," Rubenstein asserted.

To hear such news, Col. David Jones, 1st Personnel Command's rear detachment commander, said retirees traveled from as far away as Scotland.

"The retiree population is a part of what makes our Army strong," he said. "We rely on them and we appreciate their service. And they are still out there serving our Soldiers. Today is a day that we can say thank you.""

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