Germans Activate Training Element at U.S. Base
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 8, 1996 Countless American troops who've served in Germany usually remember their first few weeks overseas when they struggled to learn phrases like "Was ist los?" and "Wo ist der bahnhof, bitte?"
Learning the language was tough, but ordering "bier, bratwurst and brochen" usually came easy.
After nearly 50 years, the tables are turning. German troops are now being stationed in the southwestern United States. They'll soon be struggling with expressions like "Where it is!" and "Can you tell me how to get to Route 66?" Most likely, they'll learn to order "tequila, chili and barbecue."
German officials activated a tactical training element May 1 as a tenant unit at Holloman Air Force Base, Alamogordo, N.M. Initially, 300 aircrew and support personnel and their families and 12 German Tornado aircraft will serve at the training center. Plans call for adding another 600 Germans and 30 Tornados by 1999.
Millions of Americans have served in Germany since the end of World War II, and they've been well taken care of there, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said at a press conference. "Although our presence is reduced -- now 100,000 in Europe, down from 300,000 at the end of the Cold War -- we still have a very significant presence in Germany," he said. "There are over 100 U.S. Air Force planes stationed in Germany now -- 72 are combat planes and the others are support planes."
U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry and German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe attended activation ceremonies for the German Luftwaffe element. During the ceremonies, Perry said, "The people of America have a chance to repay these four decades of hospitality and respect."
Ruehe noted New Mexico is the same size as Germany, but has 1.5 million people to Germany's 80 million. New Mexico offers the Germans space to train and clear weather for more flying hours than their pilots can get in the seemingly ever-overcast German skies.
Alamogordo and state officials called the new mission at Holloman an economic windfall. Germany is investing about $42 million to build new facilities for the first 12 aircraft at the U.S. base, Bacon said. Another $125 million is planned for construction of hangars, maintenance facilities and noise-buffering facilities for the additional 30 Tornados. As tenants at the U.S. base, Bacon said, the Germans will also pay their own utilities and operating costs.
German air crews and their families already at Holloman are living on the economy, and their children attend local American schools. As more German troops arrive, plans call for establishing a German school in the fall for the first three or four grades.
"By the time they're all in," Bacon said, "there will be several thousand German people there, including families, and they'll be living side by side with Americans as we've been living in Germany with Germans for the last 40 years."
Training German troops in the United States is not new, according to DoD officials. German pilots and crews have trained in the United States since the early 1970s, first at George Air Force Base, Calif. When George closed in 1992, their training moved at Holloman. German air defense crews train at Fort Bliss, Texas. "[Germans] have been training in the United States for 20 years, and we expect they will be training productively in the United States for decades to come," Bacon said.
Established in 1942, Holloman is the home of the 49th Fighter Wing and its F-117 stealth fighters. U.S. and German officials have been planning to set up a German training center at the base since 1990, when Germany and the United States agreed to deepen military cooperation, DoD officials said.
In July 1992, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Ruehe agreed to add a fleet of 12 German Tornado aircraft to the seven German F-4 Phantom jet fighters already at Holloman as part of a training operation. Another 13 F-4s are operated under a contract with the U.S. government to provide training and other support to the Germans. A formal agreement for this phase of the operation was signed in May 1994.
"We welcome our German allies in New Mexico," Bacon said. "This is an important step forward in a very mature and productive alliance. It's a relationship of allies, friends and good neighbors, and now it's on both sides of the Atlantic."