Washington has sharply reduced the number of American combat forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, but a large U.S. military footprint remains. The Soviet “Evil Empire” has collapsed, Eastern Europe has switched sides, and America’s European allies now possess a collective GDP and population larger than the U.S. Why are American military personnel still stationed on the continent?
Regensburg once was a Roman garrison town and is a celebrated tourist site. More important for Americans, nearby sits the U.S. Army’s Hohenfels training facility.
Last week I participated in an Army-sponsored trip to Hohenfels. As always, spending time with American military personnel enhances my great respect for the Armed Services. From my time long (too long!) ago as an Air Force brat to now as a DC policy wonk I have found service members to be solid organizers, generous hosts, and impressive people.
At Hohenfels the Army trains not only American personnel but the armed forces of allied states, including the newer members of NATO. But it isn’t a NATO facility, an interesting anomaly. The training was extraordinarily sophisticated, preparing participants for irregular as well as regular conflict. In one of the “villages” that we visited—filled with people playing roles ranging from café owners to policemen—a truck bomb “exploded,” forcing the defending forces to respond as if they were in a combat situation. There even were local “journalists” taking pictures, which would later be “published” by media in the host “nation.”