- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Europe's battle against foot-and-mouth disease has struck the U.S. Army.
The Army is drastically reducing training for 65,000 soldiers in Germany for fear that boots and equipment could spread the highly contagious virus afflicting livestock in at least two European countries. The disease, however, poses no threat to humans.
The service's European headquarters in Heidelberg sent a message to commanders Friday ordering a training halt until at least March 28.
"Due to the potential massive spread of [foot-and-mouth disease] and the necessity to reduce to an absolute minimum the risk of infection and transmittal, German and allied forces are prohibited, with immediate effect, from conducting all exercises and other training activities outside of permanent [containment] areas, including training areas," said the Army message, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
Millie Waters, an Army spokeswoman in Europe, said the message was based on an order from the German armed forces.
"We are going to fully comply with the host-nation order," Ms. Waters said.
She said training is banned in open fields and forests, major training sites, landing and drop zones "anywhere where it's really not a hard surface."
Troops, however, will be able to do some types of training, such as firing weapons on ranges inside U.S. installations.
As to the effect of the restrictions on overall combat readiness, the Army spokeswoman said, "It's really too early to say at this point. We continue to collect information and to review matters overall."
There are exceptions to the training ban.
Those who can continue open-field training include units preparing for peacekeeping deployments in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosovo, and for emergency search-and-rescue operations.
Germany is home to the Army's V Corps, which includes the 1st Armored and 1st Infantry divisions, and the 21st Theater Support Command.
Europe is battling to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that surfaced in Britain last month, then France, and threatens pigs, cattle, sheep and goats throughout the continent. The virus is spread easily by shoes and equipment.
The Pentagon last week said military personnel and their families were taking precautions not to spread the disease during travel. The Food and Drug Administration and Customs Service are requiring travelers to disinfect footwear if they have come in contact with open spaces and agricultural areas.
"We are following their lead as to what's required and then working with them to make sure that those sorts of preventive steps are carried out for military members when they return to the United States also," said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman.
Earlier this month, Norway barred British troops from taking part in NATO exercises for fear they could carry the disease on their boots.
Washington has banned imports of European raw meat to the United States. Customs agents have disinfected the footwear of some travelers entering the United States from Europe.


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