U.S. to End Spangdahlem Air Base’s Mission, Remove 11,900 Personnel From Germany
The Pentagon will begin to wind down the U.S. military presence at Germany’s Spangdahlem Air Base, pulling out Air Force F-16s and canceling plans to move tankers and special-operations forces to the European hub, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper announced July 29.
The decision marks a major force restructuring aimed at shrinking the U.S. mission in Germany, a key strategic location for American military operations across the globe. Germany hosts one of the largest contingents of U.S. troops in the world.
In a joint briefing with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John E. Hyten, and U.S. European Command boss Gen. Tod D. Wolters, Esper said that the Defense Department will move 11,900 people out of American military installations across Germany. Of those, 6,400 will return to the U.S., while the rest relocate elsewhere in Europe.
This includes shifting the F-16s from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem to Italy, effectively ending the U.S. mission at the German base. Additionally, the 100th Air Refueling Wing, which flies the KC-135 tanker, and 352nd Special Operations Wing will stay at Mildenhall instead of moving to Spangdahlem as planned.
Ramstein Air Base is unaffected, DOD officials said, and 24,000 personnel will remain in Germany.
Esper said force changes could start to take place within weeks.
U.S. European Command is broadly restructuring to better address the needs of the National Defense Strategy, which focuses on advanced military adversaries like Russia and China rather than insurgents in the Middle East.
Esper said the strategic goal is a move away from permanent basing to instead adopt “dynamic force employment,” or the ability to quickly and proactively send troops to a particular area as mission needs dictate. DOD is rethinking its brick-and-mortar infrastructure amid fears that permanent bases could be vulnerable to attack.
The shuffle was accelerated by President Donald J. Trump’s remarks in June that he would pull U.S. forces out of Germany because he believes the host country does not spend enough of its own money on defense.
In addition to moving the F-16s, EUCOM will relocate its own headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium. U.S. Africa Command will also move its headquarters out of Stuttgart. Its final location is yet to be determined, Wolters said.
The White House approved the reorganization in June, and Pentagon officials began briefing Congress last week. Allied nations impacted by the changes, along with NATO leadership, were notified within the past few days, Esper said.