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Coevorden, Netherlands
5240'N 645'E

In support of the Department of the Army's prepositioned stocks (APS) drawdown plan, on 28 August 1998 it was announced that two installations in Central Europe would be returned to the host nations, and one site would be reduced. The APS sites scheduled for closure were Coevorden, The Netherlands and Zutendaal, Belgium. The site scheduled for reduction was Eygelshoven, The Netherlands. The strategy engaged in the reshaping of the APS in Europe optimizes long-term US interests, while also recognizing possible operational and resource constraints. The realignment was completed in January 2000.

About 40 soldiers were assigned to Combat Equipment Battalion, Northwest, headquartered in the small Dutch community of Coevorden, Netherlands. Unlike many military installations tucked within bustling metropolitan areas, this community of 15,000 people is very safe, she said. Those are only a few reasons why Coevorden has for three consecutive years -- 1994 to 1996 -- earned first-place honors in the annual US Army, Europe, Project Partnership Award competition that recognizes outstanding support to the US Army from European communities.

Located near the northern Dutch city of Zwolle, Coevorden is about a three-hour drive from one of Germany's main seaports, Bremerhaven, and three-and-a-half hours from the nearest US support facilities at Schinnen, Netherlands. CEBNW is part of Combat Equipment Group-Europe, which manages the US Army's European war reserve stocks -- formerly called POMCUS (prepositioning of materiel configured to unit sets). The 20th Combat Equipment Company, co-located with CEBNW headquarters in Coevorden, and the 19th CEC at Vriezenveen, 30 minutes away, together employ about 430 Dutch civilians under US government contract.

In a place devoid of a main post exchange and commissary, US military medical and dental facilities, Department of Defense Dependent Schools, full-service US banking and postal facilities and countless other conveniences standard at most domestic and overseas US military posts, the Americans and the Dutch have formed especially close ties. Local doctors tend to the Americans' medical care. And the city's schools have welcomed the children of American soldiers and Defense Department civilians for a decade. The 1996 school year marks the first time American youngsters in Coevorden are being bused 45 minutes away to attend an international school in Groningen, Netherlands. High-school-age kids can opt to attend Groningen's high school or an international boarding school in London, England.

That's not to say that the US military community in Coevorden doesn't support its own. The Morale, Welfare and Recreation office in the battalion community center has a gym, library, sauna, weight room and large-screen TV. Patrons may check out any of 1,500 videos at no cost. The center also hosts barbecues and sporting events that are open to the local community. Additionally, MWR plans low-cost tours to Amsterdam and other cities in Holland and Germany and has been working with local tour companies to expand tour opportunities.

Dutch children join the American kids for trick or treat on Halloween and American girls participate in the annual Miss Ganzenhoedster (goose girl) festival. Contestants for the coveted titles of Miss Goose Girl and Mini Miss Goose Girl dress in traditional 18th-century costumes and herd a flock of geese through Coevorden's streets. During the Christmas season, too, the Dutch and Americans share festivities that mark the arrival of the Dutch Sinterklaas on a boat from Spain and America's beloved jolly old St. Nick via reindeer-drawn sleigh from the North Pole.

Close ties between the Dutch and Americans in Coevorden took root in the 1980s, at a time when there was lots of discussion about putting cruise missiles and prepositioned combat equipment in Europe. There were a lot of negative feelings as a result. But the locals were enthusiastic about having a POMCUS site in Coevorden, even when they learned that it could be accompanied by a huge ammunition bunker complex. In fact, they inquired about setting up a POMCUS site here because they knew it would boost the town's economy.

With the POMCUS site came the addition of a German rail spur on Dutch territory, which created more jobs. Unemployment fell from 26 percent to 12 percent. The CEC sites and the US military presence in Coevorden continue to bring in jobs. Several large US companies have set up business in Coevorden since then. Others have sent representatives to check out the area. A terminal container company wants to start an operation by the railroad. A US pet food company is interested in the benefits the container company could provide.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:46:14 ZULU