BAMBERG, Germany -- Lt. Col. Michelle L. Bienias, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg, recently unveiled her priorities in response to Department of Defense furloughs and cast a light on some of the uncertainties surrounding a base transformation that will see USAG Bamberg's eventual drawdown and closure by 2014. Bienias spoke candidly on the garrison's transformation at a town hall meeting June 12 at the Freedom Fitness Facility.

To accommodate the challenge of closing a base down that must at the same time maintain its quality of life, Bienias laid out the priorities which will guide garrison decisions between now and October 2014, the anticipated closure date.

The main effort now is closure, with the primary focus being on unit relocation. The command's secondary priority is to support and strengthen the Bamberg community. How those priorities affect the lives of the community will be more evident as the garrison goes through major restructuring in the coming months.

"Between now and October 2013, we're going to lose about half of our community," Bienias said. "In addition, furlough notices have been issued and will be in effect 8 July to 30 September."

While the commissary and AAFES will not furlough, the post office, ASAP, Self Help and schools will be affected. The post office and ASAP will close on Fridays, while Self Help will close one hour early on Fridays. Schools will furlough for five days at the beginning of the academic year in August and September. Those dates are available on the DoDEA website here.

Directorates, including logistics, public works, recreation (MWR), human resources, resource management and operations, are working to publicize service changes as needed.

In addition, Soldiers are being cross trained to continue to provide necessary services, Bienias said.

Updated schedules will be posted on the garrison website and Facebook page. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Exchange services and hours will either be reduced or modified beginning July 8 (see Exchange schedule for details).
• The Power Zone will move inside the PXtra.
• The Post Theater will close August 31.
• Army Community Services (ACS) will move into garrison headquarters.
• Family Advocacy Program (FAP) will move into the chapel.

Despite its decreasing size, the garrison will continue to provide schools for children. The 2013-2014 school year will be the last school year in Bamberg.

There will be no service modifications to the Freedom Fitness Facility or the Community Activity Center (CAC) through this year. Additionally, there will no reduction to medical services.

"We will continue offering safe and high quality care," said Lt. Col. John J. Melton, commander of the Bamberg Army Health Clinic. "What the community experiences today, we will continue to provide throughout closure."

While garrison leadership will continue to ensure a positive quality of life for the community, a decrease in services will occur in proportion to decreases in the population and staffing at USAG Bamberg.