Hohenfels celebrates the 'force behind the force'
May 14, 2012
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Hohenfels community members gathered to honor their vast contingent of volunteers at an award ceremony and luncheon that celebrated the "force behind the force," April 18.
"We wanted to take a moment to recognize our volunteers throughout the community who have dedicated so much of their time and energy to make this community such a wonderful place to live in," said Lt. Col. John J. Strange, U.S. Garrison Hohenfels commander.
Hohenfels volunteers logged more than 32,000 hours last year, according to Erica Turner, Army Community Service division chief. At the base rate of a GS-9, that adds up to more than $655,000.
"Your hours are not just a representation of the hard work and dedication, but a value and savings that your force provides to the community," Turner said.
Volunteers permeate almost every service on post, from the mailroom, the gym, the library and the clinic. Many services provided by the garrison are almost entirely dependent on volunteers. As pointed out in a video presented at the luncheon, the president of the Hohenfels Middle High School Booster Club and the swim team coach are volunteers, without whom certain activities would not be available to students.
"The youth sports program here, and the sports programs that serve our communities are highly dependent on volunteers," said Strange. "Whether it's swimming, softball, or soccer, those activities are coached by community members on a volunteer basis. And it's all the more important when you consider the fact that many of those Soldiers whose families are being supported have been deployed to Afghanistan or Kosovo. Those community volunteers, whether their acting in support of girl scouts or boy scouts, in some way become father or mother figures for a short period of time, and you can't put a value on that."
Sgt. First Class Michael Crook, Joint Multinational Readiness Center Operations group, was recognized by Child, Youth, and School Services Sports and Fitness as the Active Duty Volunteer of the Year for his work with the youth soccer teams. Crook coaches teams in Hohenfels and in Grafenwoehr and serves on the Board of Directors of the United States Youth Soccer Association, Europe branch.
"I love to take kids from never having played, or even those with some experience, and watch them grow," Crook said.
Many programs are also supported by volunteers from the local German community. Hohenfels' German American Kontakt club president Andreas Kirschenbauer logged over 800 volunteer hours in support of the club and was named the Host Nation Volunteer of the Year.
"It's all about the club and promoting the friendship," Kirschenbauer said. "The people keep me motivated. When you do trips and organize it, everybody is happy and it turns out fun, that's my payback."
Melanie Wilhite volunteers at Army Community Service as the Army Family Team Building Program manager. She said when she first became an Army spouse, it wasn't so easy to figure out the new culture. She started volunteering to make the transition easier for other new spouses.
"I had people who helped me out along the way, I had that one spouse who helped me … I think I'm trying to be that person for a lot of new spouses, now," she said.
"Our volunteers come in all shapes and sizes; active duty Soldiers, civilians, spouses, family members, and our German community partners. All of them come together to make a difference," Strange said.
Many volunteers said that they are driven by a desire to give back to their community. They also said it's a great way to get involved, meet new friends, and cultivate a sense of "belonging" within the community.
"You can go home and sit on your duff all night, or you can get out and do something," said volunteer Ric Potteiger. "It's a small community, anything can help."