SCHWEINFURT, Germany (Aug. 1, 2013) -- Garrison leadership from Ansbach, Bamberg and Schweinfurt met at Conn Barracks in Schweinfurt July 24 to discuss the way ahead for the upcoming garrison closures in Schweinfurt and Bamberg.

The garrisons in Bamberg and Schweinfurt are slated to close no later than Sept. 30, 2014. Both garrisons transitioned from the planning phase to the execution phase on April 1, 2013.

This means, in addition to their daily jobs of providing garrison services to Soldiers and Families, employees in Schweinfurt and Bamberg must also turn in excess furniture and equipment in order to clear rooms and buildings, among other required tasks associated with closure

"We want to make sure the bag is empty," said Kevin Griess, deputy garrison commander in Ansbach, referring to the fact that all buildings, facilities and motorpools in Bamberg and Schweinfurt have to be cleared and empty before closure.

After the garrisons are closed two teams of 20 employees each will remain in order to prepare the installations for turnover to the German government. These teams will report to USAG Ansbach.

"Closure is a big mission. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder, helping each other and trusting that we will be there for each other," said Col. Christopher Benson, U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Commander. "My agenda is to take care of Soldiers and Families and the workforce. The more we can do to prepare now, the better prepared we are for last minute challenges."

Benson emphasized the importance of planning and identifying requirements as early as possible. The planning process, as well as the garrisons' workforce, will be crucial to successful closures.

Keeping employees motivated was one of the main topics of the conference. Benson asked leaders to apply the Golden Rule and treat others the same way they would like to be treated. Being engaged with the workforce and knowing employees' future plans after closure is the minimum expectation.

The local national workforce will receive their termination papers in September -- a year before the actual termination date. This will be a milestone on the path to closure and an emotional event for affected employees. Some local national employees have worked for the U.S. Army for more than 40 years. Mitchell Jones, director of Task Force Closure, stressed that motivated employees are critical in the upcoming months.

"We are about 14 months out to turning over installations," Jones said. "Now is the time we have to keep our workforce motivated."

"As leaders, you will be faced with challenges keeping services open while taking care of your employees," Griess said. He stated further that taking care of employees is not optional but is every leader's duty.

Eventually, all installations in the Franconia Military Community will be affected by Bamberg's and Schweinfurt's closure. Currently, Bamberg is below 60 percent and Schweinfurt below 75 percent of their staffing requirements. The situation will get more severe as employees leave the closing communities and accept jobs elsewhere.

Griess said the gaps will eventually be filled by Ansbach personnel. This, in turn, will impact Ansbach and Illesheim.

"Collaboration and sharing information is key to being able to provide support," Griess said. He asked that the closing communities identify their shortfalls early to ensure Ansbach is able to provide assistance.