German official seeks to ban large exercises by US Army after damage

Saber Junction 2012 Maneuver Rights Area

From Steven Beardsley and Marcus Kloeckner, Stars and Stripes:  One of U.S. Army Europe’s largest maneuver exercises since the end of the Cold War caused extensive damage to fields, fences and bridges, according to local officials who are awaiting compensation and lobbying for a ban on future exercises conducted outside designated training areas.

After the mayor of a small community near the Hohenfels Training Area complained of damage from the October exercise and delayed compensation, a district official asked the Bavarian government to prohibit similar training — including a British exercise planned for May — calling the possibility of additional damage “shocking and unacceptable.”

The episode comes as USAREUR shows renewed interest in using swaths of the Bavarian countryside for large-scale maneuver training, much as it did during the Cold War.

“I expect that in the future those exercises will not take place anymore,” said Peter Braun, mayor of Markt Schmidmühlen, a town of 2,400 that sits on the northern edge of the Hohenfels Training Area.

The exercise was notable for its use of a wide swath of Maneuver Rights Area between training areas in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, which allowed the Stryker armored vehicles driven by the 2nd Cavalry Regiment here to square off against mock enemy forces.

The result was rutted fields, broken fences and damaged bridges to the tune of 120,000 euros ($155,000), according to a letter written to the Bavarian government by Amberg-Sulzbach district representative Richard Reisinger. Braun says roughly 70,000 euros ($91,000) of the damage is in Schmidmühlen alone. . . .

Braun’s anger, which he says is shared by residents across the Amberg-Sulzbach district in Bavaria, stems from the Army’s month-long “Saber Junction 2012” exercise, in which 1,700 participants from 19 nations simulated armored force-on-force fighting in and around USAREUR’s maneuver training grounds at the Hohenfels Training Area. . . .

Saber Junction marked the Army’s renewed interest in force-on-force training after more than a decade of counter-insurgency operations, which officials say have degraded skills like large-scale command-and-control and maneuver tactics.

Although USAREUR often uses MRA across Germany, Saber Junction is the largest exercise of its scale since one of the final Return of Forces to Germany exercises, or REFORGER. Started in the sixties to send a message to the Soviet Union, REFORGER cobbled together a multinational force of thousands to maneuver in the German countryside.  (photo: Specialist Markus Rauchenberger/USAREUR)

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