Schweinfurt's commander addresses closure at All Hands
September 5, 2012
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- The garrison commander spoke Aug. 6 at an all hands meeting to address issues and rumors surrounding a base transformation that will see Schweinfurt's eventual drawdown and closure by 2014.
The garrison closure timeline is currently divided into three phases, said Lt. Col. Michael Runey. The first phase consists of planning and sustainment. Phase two -- set to begin in the spring of 2013 -- will consist of units leaving or inactivating, resulting in all troops departing Schweinfurt by September 2014. The final phase deals with the transfer of the garrison to German authorities, which will conclude no later than April 2015.
To confront a dual mission of closing a base down that must at the same time maintain its operational readiness and quality of life levels, in March Runey laid out a list of three priorities which will serve as a beacon between now and October 2014, the anticipated closure date. Those priorities, he explained, will guide decision-making over the course of the transformation.
"We all will continue to strengthen and build community until we close," said Runey, reiterating one of his three priorities. Carving the route between now and closure, the commander's priorities are to support the Army's combat capability, to ensure life, health and safety on the installation, and to support and strengthen the Schweinfurt community.
Garrison closure is set for the fall of 2014, and that much is certain. An official operation order, or OPORDER, providing further guidance is slotted for publication later this fall. But questions remain. Why, for example, is the garrison still looking for houses for troops and their families? Local media outlets picked up on the requests earlier this month. The reason is that Schweinfurt has become the new home to the 18th Engineer Brigade headquarters from Schwetzingen, drawing in more than 100 Soldiers. With a new wave of families relocating to the area, the members of the garrison team made the requests to the German community to help reduce the spreading of families further from the installation.
Runey squashed the rumor that the garrison would be enduring due to an exercise that is scheduled to begin next month. From Sept. 10 -- Oct. 12, 2012, U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt will host a large-scale NATO military exercise involving approximately 1,000 Dutch and German troops.
"It is a normal NATO exercise and we were asked to conduct part of it here or from Schweinfurt," said Runey.
Another issued addressed at the town hall dealt with issues on services available to local nationals, non-appropriated funds and appropriated funds employees.
The first restructure announced in November of 2011 called for a reduction of 123 positions, not people, said Runey. The members of the garrison team have been able to reduce the number of employees who will be receiving reduction in force letters to 60. The reduction in force, or RIF, will mainly affect local national employees.
"These notifications, as hard as they are, will be done person to person, as long as the individual is here," said Runey.
In the federal government, layoffs are called RIF actions. When an agency must abolish positions, the RIF regulations determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, or whether the employee has a right to a different position, according to the Office of Personnel Management website.
Runey also restated that even though the RIF will mainly affect local national employees, NAF and AF employees have complete access to receive counsel from the Schweinfurt Civilian Personnel Advisory Center more commonly known as CPAC.
If garrison employees would like to receive information about the opportunities that are available to them to prepare for a transition, they are able to make an appointment with CPAC.
"Each person's situation is different. We would like to encourage you to communicate any issues you are having with your leadership so your leadership can enable you to obtain the level of understanding you need," Runey said. "We just cannot tolerate people not knowing the opportunities that are available to help themselves."
The subject of RIFs is always a concern to a community. Keeping true to his word to provide transparency, Runey addressed concerns about future RIFs.
"I can tell you right now that I have not heard of any other plans for another RIF, but I cannot promise you that there will not be another RIF," he said. Runey said that he intends to close Schweinfurt with the workforce the garrison would have after the first RIF action.
To stave off rumors that Soldiers were being used to fill labor positions, Runey said "there are no secret plans to back-fill all our workers with Soldiers."
There was also confusion regarding the final school year date that may have been derived from incorrectly using next year instead of the actual fiscal year or calendar year. Runey stated the last school year will end in the summer of 2014.
Another rumor mounted in the local press suggested that the garrison has not been working with local Schweinfurt officials to hand over the installation. That simply is not true. There had been confusion regarding who could provide access to private German conversion contractors on post. Only the German federal real estate agency -- known as Bundesanstalt fur Immobilienaufgaben, or BImA -- can grant access on behalf of the property owner, which is the Federal Republic of Germany. Runey informed attendees that members of the garrison team have been making significant efforts to talk to the Lord Mayor's office and the county commissioner's office. These efforts are aimed at ensuring the city and county are knowledgeable of how to work with BImA. The last phase of the closure incorporates the transfer of the garrison to BImA no later than April 2015. The rumor has since been clarified in the local press.
The all hands meeting provided an opportunity for employees to directly ask the commander questions and concerns they have. One questioner asked how long Runey will remain here in Schweinfurt as the garrison commander.
Runey said, "As of today I will be gone by next July because that will be the end of my two year command. I can say that no commander has been appointed, nor do I expect a commander to come in behind me."
He also explained that in the absence of a garrison commander the leadership of the garrison would be left in the hands of the deputy commander, Kevin Griess.
The all hands quarterly meeting is for all U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt employees to receive updates on events in the community, for leaders of different organizations to recognize the hard work of their employees and to voice any cares or concerns they may have as an employee of the garrison.
The next all hands meeting is scheduled for Oct. 24, 2012.