As bases close, Germans plan to follow troops back home

• March 28, 2012 9:38 am


The closure of army bases has led to economic panic among locals—in Germany.

The Washington Post reports that Americans have won the hearts and minds of local Germans near the base in Baumholder. After decades of exposure to the U.S. Army base, the neighboring community is filled with Germans who drive Ford Mustangs, eat fried chicken, and speak English with a southern drawl. But the Obama administration’s plan to close four army bases and cut the military’s presence in Germany in half will devastate local economies.

"If they leave, Baumholder is going to turn into a ghost city," said Thomas Kiefer, 44, a German tattoo artist who speaks English with a Mississippi drawl and was eating Popeyes chicken at his shop one recent evening. Eighty percent of his customers come from the Army base. "I got a lot of friends up there. I’m going to miss my buddies…"

The European cuts are part of a larger Pentagon effort to trim $487 billion in projected spending over next decade. The Army estimates that spending from the base in Baumholder contributes about $150 million every year to the local economy, from hiring local workers to renting off-base apartments for soldiers to buying local products.

Some locals have pledged to follow the soldiers they have come to love back home.

"I’m heading to Texas," said Irmtraud Goettel, 64, who runs a hotel and open-pit barbecue restaurant with her husband. Longhorns are mounted above the bar, a reminder of her granddaughter, who’s about to graduate from college in the Lone Star State.

"You know what I do in Texas?" Goettel said. "I like to pop open a big can of Natural Light" — much better than German beer, she said — "sit on the back porch, fire up the grill."

Published under: Army, Germany, Obama Administration