By Sidney Harris and Nathan Van Schaik, USAG Schweinfurt Public AffairsNovember 27, 2013
SCHWEINFURT, Germany (Nov. 27, 2013) -- Inside a quiet warehouse here at Conn Barracks rest the remnants of a bygone era. Tagged, categorized and ready for delivery, there is an orderly array of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bongos and congas. There are tight rows of cow bells, dumb bells and barbells, as well as labeled pool tables, dining tables, air hockey tables and ping pong tables. But just as the garrison's closure is most evident inside this historical dustbin, what permeates inside these walls is a notion of movement -- like inside an airport. Even the row of chairs, sofas, love seats, desks and computers are lined up as if awaiting to board a plane. All of it must go.
Colloquially dubbed the "Fun Factory," the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation oversees, organizes and funds most recreational programs and events on-post. It also employs a significant portion of the garrison's workforce -- from child care takers to recreational specialists at the Outdoor Recreation Center. Much of MWR's equipment and resources are paid for with money generated in the community. And the work of a two-man team to salvage what is serviceable, and dispose of what is not, represents a major effort by the U.S. Army to re-capitalize those resources to other installations.
Led by Joseph Klindt, an grizzled yet approachable Army veteran, the team includes George Spaulding, also a retired first sergeant. They load, transport, unload, repair, catalog, store and transfer equipment -- MWR equipment, the type of equipment that supports facilities such as fitness centers, bowling centers and movie theaters. And since the announcement of the garrison's closure in 2012, the two have been consolidating and accounting for this equipment in two large hangars until it's transferred.
"Joe is the paperwork 'Meister,'" Spaulding said. "He does all the transfers, coordinates for the transfers, makes sure we get all the signatures and that everything gets updated in the computer system."
Transport trucks from garrisons in Ansbach, Stuttgart, Garmisch, Grafenwoehr and Wiesbaden have picked up approximately $2 million worth of property, said Klindt, who is the supervisory supply specialist overseeing all non-appropriated funds equipment, furniture and resources. And still, the only free space in the warehouse is a narrow strip of walkway running down the 650 feet length of the facility.
On each side of the aisle are neat clusters of serviceable and unserviceable refrigerators, freezers, stationary bikes, strollers, truck tires and calculators. There's even an abacus. And more -- much, much more.
Klindt, who modestly admits to 46 years of government service, walks twice behind a wall of stacked boxes and returns each time with a large vintage photograph of Soldiers in the field.
"One is from World War I and the other from World War II -- that makes them almost as old as me," he said.
With his arms fully extended, gripping the sides of the frame, the 65-year-old leans the life-size portraits against the wall where the lighting reveals tack-sharp details of the pre-digital era prints. He takes a step back and looks at them for a brief moment in silence.
"I just hope that they don't get destroyed, or thrown away or something like that because they are really nice -- and really old," said Klindt.
He turns and points to an area packed with large speakers, stage lights, strobe lights, rotating lights, mixing boards, keyboards, pianos, microphones, and miles of cable -- reminiscent of the gear in the iconic time-lapse videos of hair metal bands building a concert stage.
"All this stuff here is going to the music and theater section in Ansbach," he said. "We are talking a million dollars just right here."
"He is a real stickler -- very professional about maintaining accountability of things and the condition codes -- which are good, bad or real trash -- and he's the one who designates when it's going to another post," said Spaulding.
In a corner of the warehouse is a 7-foot-tall mirror, which Klindt estimates to weigh between 300 and 400 pounds. He said it took a four-man detail to transport it from officer's mess of the 24th Infantry Division. Klindt, who is schedule to retire at the end of this mission, stands silent in front of the mirror, just as he did earlier with the pictures, as if reflecting on his accomplishments over his 46-year career.
"This is one of the most interesting finds, and we hope that some day someone will find a good home for it," he said.