GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- In April 2010, officials from all over the U.S. Army celebrated the turnover of the final construction project as part of Efficient Basing Grafenwoehr, a U.S. Army Europe program designed to upgrade the Army's premiere training facility outside of the United States.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District celebrated successful management of EBG projects -- 80 projects over seven years, more than $750 million of the $1.1 billion program.
But despite the ceremonious completion of EBG, Grafenwoehr Training Area continues to evolve and grow with roughly $50 million planned in construction through 2015, and according to officials, there's still more work to be done.
"One of the things I always find interesting is that a lot of people think that we're done dealing with construction here, and actually we're not," said Col. Avanulas R. Smiley, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr commander. "While we may be at the tail end, we have a lot of construction projects still ongoing and still planning for the future."
As work continues here, the goal is to keep the momentum created during EBG and apply the lessons learned to ongoing projects, explained Peter Barth, Europe District regional program manager.
"We still have a pretty decent workload here in Grafenwoehr," he said. "The footprint of the garrison was almost doubled by EBG, meaning that they have a lot more maintenance. We have a couple of interesting projects -- the outdoor recreation center that we just started construction on and we also have a chapel in design."
Additional projects include six single-soldier barracks (three of which are currently being awarded to industry), Air Support Operations Squadron and Unmanned Aerial System facilities, and a Dental Clinic. Renovations to various military family housing units, training range upgrades and additions to maintenance facilities are also in the works.
"Here at Grafenwoehr, we have not really slowed down much. My staff, the DPW, has not grown nearly as quickly as our buildings have grown," said Andy Spendlove, director of the garrison's Directorate of Public Works.
The post went from roughly 800 active-duty Soldiers to 3,500 not including civilian employees and family members. The Grafenwoehr Training Area is the U.S. Army's largest overseas training area and also serves as a platform for multinational training. Two of the four maneuver brigades in U.S. Army Europe are stationed here.
"A lot of people think that [EBG] chapter's been closed, but there is an ongoing effort here," Audre Binder, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director said. "As the director of FMWR, my work is not yet done."
For example, the 7.7 million euro outdoor recreation complex, funded with non-appropriated funds and being construction through USACE, will include a multipurpose room, cabins, campgrounds, a climbing tower, a ropes course and a paintball course. Additionally, with its convenient location next to DiqHoiter Lake, boating and canoeing will also be available.
"Our Soldiers and our families have basically been in a constant state of deployment for 10 years. We know when our Soldiers come back, it's difficult to come out of a red zone where there's a high state of alertness," Binder said. "There's a whole lot they're dealing with and we needed to give them an opportunity to work off some of that anxiety, work through some of that stress. We needed to do that on the installation, not off the installation."
The main purpose of the facility is to provide redeployed troops a place where they can relieve stress in a healthy manner by the introduction of high-risk, low-threat activities. The program is being coordinated in conjunction with the Warrior Adventure Quest, which takes redeployed troops and introduces them to a new skill set such as rock climbing. Engaging in team activities such rock climbing or ropes courses allow soldiers to decompress as a unit in a safe, positive way.
The new outdoor recreation center will allow Soldiers and their families to decompress through their choice of activities. Families will be able to engage in activities from soccer to lawn darts, according to Binder.
Additionally, a new chapel for the Netzaberg housing area is in the works, forecasted to be the largest chapel in Europe, Barth said.
"The chapels that we have now are old. They're small, tough to handle the population that we have now so the one at Netzaberg is a fantastic facility in terms of what it's designed to be so hopefully that comes to fruition," Smiley said.
With more than 800 units in Netzaberg, the chapel will not only serve as a religious service facility, the additional classrooms and large open spaces will allow families to use the building for community activities and events, Barth said.
"We don't have a place like that here," said Andrea Hoesl, a project manager with the DPW. "It will be directly co-located with the schools, the youth services center and the CDC. It's really the center of life for the families so this is the perfect location for it."
Designated as an enduring base, units not only use the training area to prepare for combat, they also live here. According to the DPW, transforming Grafenwoehr into an enduring base has improved the quality-of-life for Soldiers and their families. Soldiers stationed at Grafenwoehr now train where they live -- a feature that benefits the Soldiers, their families and even the U.S. taxpayers, Spendlove said.
"A Solider lives on post, he goes into the front door of the company ops, he changes, he goes out the back door right into his vehicle, does his training, comes back, reverses it, comes out the front door and he's on his own time," Spendlove said. "It's a much higher quality-of-life for the Soldiers. Training is more efficient, we save more than $25 million a year in transportation costs."
One of the lingering memories of EBG is the Baudeinstelle, a specialized team formed to coordinate the entire EBG program. The cell co-located members from the USACE Europe District, the garrison's DPW and the local German construction authority (known as the Baumter) on the installation.
Although the cell has downsized since the completion of the EBG program, the concept is still very much alive and continues to work with projects across the installation, Smiley said.
"Even though we drew down the size of those [EBG] offices, the fact of the matter is that we still have the historical knowledge and we still have the ability to respond to different things," he said. "There were some synergies well before I got here in terms of monitoring the construction, ensuring that we were meeting standards and then we were able to adjust to any issues or problems as they occurred."
The co-location provided efficiencies that helped speed up communication and decision making during EBG, helping keep projects on time, on budget and averting the domino-like effect should a project be delayed, Hoesl said.
"We don't have to wait until we get somebody on the telephone. We can directly walk to this person to ask about a problem and try to solve it," Hoesl said. "This really helped us during EBG, and also now after EBG to get projects done on time, on budget without any delays."
Although the current workload is much smaller and the timelines less volatile, the effectiveness of the Baudeinstelle cannot be overlooked, Barth said.
"Although we have to adjust the workforce to the current project load, we're still going to have co-location here to ease the communication between the stakeholders," Barth said. "We have a significant workload, and the projects are tailored towards project size that is attractive for local vendors and construction companies, which is very beneficial for the local industry. We rely heavily on the industry to help us produce and deliver projects and facilities."
Prior to EBG, there had not been a build-up of its kind since post-World War II. The lessons learned over the initiative's eight-year process are something every agency is carrying over into these new projects, Spendlove said.
"As lessons learned go, the thing about getting the right people in the right place and trusting them to do their own thing is the only way this thing worked," he said. "That's how we have to operate in the future, especially with the continued constraints on money."
As the military community here continues to grow -- a community that also includes Hohenfels, Vilsek, Garmisch and Rose Barracks -- Grafenwoehr will continue to improve its support facilities.
"We always have that hip pocket plan that if someone brings out some money and says, 'If you had X number of dollars, what would you do with it?' we always have an answer ready," Binder said. "You may not see it in your time here, but if you come back to Grafenwoehr like many people are now, you'll say, 'Wow! Where did all this come from?' We're going to continue with that [momentum] for the next few years as we realize some more projects here."