Graf prepares for 172nd influx
July 3, 2008
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr is preparing for an influx of troops as Soldiers from the 172nd Infantry Brigade, currently based out of Schweinfurt, Germany, have started moving here.
Garrison officials said more than 50 percent of the two battalions have arrived.
USAG Grafenwoehr Command Sgt. Maj. William Berrios said the Soldiers and families are relocating in phases, allowing installation services to adjust to a rising population.
Berrios said staggering the moves has also allowed the housing office to fulfill the demand of homes by incoming families.
With more than 3,000 leased and government-owned units, Berrios said the garrison is prepared to accommodate the new arrivals.
"Everyone that is authorized to bring a family to this location will have a house ... the garrison will do everything in (its) power to accommodate every single family," he said.
Construction on the west side of Netzaberg - the planned community next to Grafenwoehr's main post with more than 800 homes, a child care center and two schools - is expected to be completed in September.
Ninety percent of homes in the 12-neighborhood community are filled or have been assigned to incoming families.
And schools in the garrison, including Netzaberg Elementary and Middle Schools, which will open to students in August, are 60 percent full, Berrios said.
"Right now, all of the kids will be taken care of," the command sergeant major said. "We ask the community to be proactive and enroll (students) now ... the sooner you register the better idea we'll have regarding equipment needed," he said.
Tony Frazier, USAG Grafenwoehr installation coordinator, said the garrison is prepared and will continue to remain flexible as people move to the area.
However, "There are going to be a few challenges, everybody will be adjusting (as needed)," Frazier said.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Services Post Exchange began modifying to the influx of new troops in January when the store experienced a jump in sales, said Stephanie Burns, Grafenwoehr main store manager.
"We saw a huge increase (in sales) in the February/March timeframe; they've been increasing since then," she said.
To accommodate the rise in demand, the store more than doubled its stock in hard-hit areas like linen and clothing.
Burns said linen was increased by 40 percent, while the clothing profile was more than doubled.
Clothing, she explained, is ordered a year in advance based on previous sales, expected sales and trends.
With sales surpassing the initial outlook from when store opened in September, Burns said it has been a challenge to keep up with customer demand.
"When sales exceed the expectations, you're going to have shortages," she said. "That was the case this year. But now that we have adjusted, we're doing a better job of staying in stock."
Since opening, the PX has received more than $400,000 in merchandise from neighboring AAFES stores to satisfy demand. Burns expects that number to drop dramatically in the coming months as the new clothing profile arrives.
"What is really exciting for us is that this is the first profile that we've been able to commit dollars based on the sales that we now have, (along with) projected sales," Burns said.
To accommodate previous stock shortages, the store - which averages 38,000 transactions monthly and had more than $4 million in sales during May - established a customer order program.
The program had averaged more than 400 orders monthly, but has seen a decrease in demand as more merchandise has been stocked. Currently, the store averages 90-percent-in-stock rates.
Burns said the store is also preparing for back-to-school shopping. With 97 percent of its customers coming from within the garrison footprint, the store worked with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools to ensure they will be able to accommodate the needs of every student.
"We know we're going to have additional family members," Burns said. "What we've done is received the expected enrollment for the schools, the number of kids for each grade, and the school supply list for that grade ... and we increased that by 40 percent."
Burns added that the store has also ordered thousands of backpacks, and additional items needed such as non-skid shoes and white t-shirts for art classes.
To expedite the check-out process, three additional registers will be added to the store.
"We're doing everything we can to stay in stock ... and we'll make adjustments to ensure customer satisfaction," Burns said.
The Grafenwoehr Commissary, according to Gerri Young, public affairs for DeCA Europe, is also making adjustments to ensure customer satisfaction.
"The present store was built in anticipation of the expansion of the Grafenwoehr community," Young said.
The store, which opened in September, has more than 47,000 square feet, 27,337 of which are devoted to the sales floor.
To help in customer service, store managers expect an additional 15 employees to be added to its current staff of 79 by August. The store currently has four self-checkouts and six traditional registers.
"When customer count is higher (usually weekends and paydays), all six registers are open to provide service.
We watch this carefully and adjust as needed in order to speed the checkout process for our customers," Young said.
With 36,000 transactions a month, the store averages nearly $1.2 million in sales monthly, with a 97-98 percent in-stock rate.
"To help maintain that in-stock rate, truck deliveries from our distributions center will increase by two each week. Resupply is never more than one day away as long as the products have arrived from the States," Young said.
"The commissary staff places replenishment orders every day and receives stock every day. As the business continues to increase, order quantities will be continually adjusted as a normal part of commissary operations," she added.
To further accommodate the increase in customer traffic, the commissary became a seven-day operation with extended hours this month.
"That equates to 68 hours of full operation a week with an additional 12 hours of grab 'n' go service. This is a big increase over the previous 57 full operation hours," Young said.
"According to Randy Eller, zone manager for the area, we have anticipated the large influx of personnel and adjusted our staffing, our delivery schedules and our hours of operation to accommodate this increased demand. We will continue to monitor sales in all departments to ensure the proper stock levels are maintained to provide our customers the outstanding service they deserve," she said.
Until the 172nd is fully integrated into Grafenwoehr, Berrios is asking community members to remain patient.
"Be flexible, we (will) ensure everybody receives all the services they are entitled to receive in a timely manner," he said.