By Mr. Stephen Baack (IMCOM)April 18, 2013
BAMBERG, Germany (April 18, 2013) -- Throughout the next 21 months, the Franconia Military Community will need to move mission units and close two garrisons with a population and government housing footprint equal to Fairfax, Va.
This is according to Mitchell Jones, chief of the Franconia Military Community's Closure Task Force, who organized a gathering of leaders March 28 at USAG Bamberg's Warner Barracks to synchronize efforts of USAG Bamberg, USAG Schweinfurt and USAG Ansbach and focus their attention on what has become FMC's main mission: closure.
About 14 months ago, the Department of Defense announced a shift in the force posture across U.S. European Command, including the closure of U.S. Army garrisons in Bamberg and Schweinfurt by the end of September 2014.
For the Franconia Military Community, that announcement initiated the planning phase of the closure process. Now, FMC has shifted its focus to execution.
Although USAG Ansbach and the caserns that comprise it will remain open for the foreseeable future, the garrison will stand shoulder to shoulder as USAG Bamberg and USAG Schweinfurt close.
Most of the meeting attendees consisted of directors and key action officers from each directorate of the three garrisons, some of whom are now part of the FMC's Closure Task Force and closure working groups.
The March 28 meeting covered topics that might seem esoteric to many outside of the meeting; however, the common goal was finding the best way to carry out the transition while preserving the life, health and safety of the Soldiers, Families and civilians of the FMC.
Despite the physical distance between each footprint, the concept of three separate garrisons is now obsolete. As USAG Ansbach commander Col. Kelly J. Lawler told the more than 100 people in attendance, all three garrisons need to come together as one -- as the Franconia Military Community.
Lawler addressed the group -- which included USAG Bamberg's commander, Lt. Col. Michelle Bienias, and USAG Schweinfurt's commander, Lt. Col. Michael Runey -- and gave everyone fair warning that they will have to make difficult decisions from now into 2014 as thousands of Soldiers, Families, civilians, local nationals and contractors transition.
As the garrison builds ready and resilient platform for communities, Lawler said, the only way forward is for FMC to acknowledge and embrace the closure mission.
"The priority is closure," Lawler said. "The priority is [Army Force Generation]. The priority is quality of life."
For USAGs Bamberg and Schweinfurt, this means meeting those priorities while many services are consolidated, modified and leveraged across the FMC as the population contracts.
Garrisons have already led closure-specific town hall meetings and are updating closure information on a daily basis through Facebook, the garrison websites and closure blogs. This public outreach addresses an array of issues including housing, relocating services, civilian staff changes, medical care, schools, fitness, postal services, personnel services and updates on unit moves.
The community will only succeed if its members communicate, take care of each other, remain positive and work as a team, Lawler told the audience. To succeed, the community must embrace the mission, he added, and teamwork will be essential to that process.
Going a step further, Lawler told the crowd to get excited: "You're making history. You're a part of history." Since the end of World War II, the Army has had a home at Bamberg and Schweinfurt. Now, like a handful of other U.S. Army installations in Germany, Lawler said it's time to give them back to the host nation.
"This closure mission will define you, it will define your garrison, and it will define the FMC," he said. "When we have succeeded and succeeded well, we will have done it together."
Kevin L. Griess, USAG Ansbach deputy garrison commander, stressed the importance of not only working through the change, but excelling throughout the next year and a half. He said failure is not only not an option, it is a word he -- and other leaders he works with -- don't even want to hear.
"Your only path forward is to excel," Griess said, adding that members of FMC will need to do this while encountering both staff and budget issues.
Jones said it's important that members of the Franconia Military Community know that "FMC is prepared and ready to execute closure operations -- we are on a glide path for successful execution."
The community must come together to do this all while maintaining "the best possible quality of life for Soldiers and Families, redeploying and reintegrating combat units, drawing down the current workforce by 30 percent by June 1 and maximizing resource savings and recapitalization."
Jones said identifying and addressing problems early is a must. These friction points exist because of simultaneous ARFORGEN and re-stationing operations across FMC, he said.
"This closure mission is different than prior closures," Jones continued. "This is more robust, but with fewer resources. There is a significant workforce reduction at the same time and prior to closure operations -- all while we are still at a full operations tempo."
That's why, he added, it's critical to accurately forecast community needs and implement creative solutions along the way -- among all three garrisons.
This means shifting not only personnel and resources, but funneling the talents of all FMC personnel to wherever they can have the most impact. This may mean bringing a Soldier or employee from Ansbach to Bamberg -- or vice versa -- to lend a hand where needed and to ensure Soldiers and Families keep receiving the quality of life commensurate with their quality of service.
"A combined effort across all three garrisons of Ansbach, Bamberg and Schweinfurt," Jones said, "will be the main factor in our success."
To learn more about services and how they are changing, visit one of the closure blogs. Schweinfurt Closure Blog: www.schweinfurt.army.mil/closure2014/index.htm. Bamberg Closure Blog: www.bamberg.army.mil/news/closureblog.asp. For news about all three garrisons, visit Franconian News Online at www.army.mil/franconiannews.