ANSBACH, Germany (Jan. 7, 2014) -- U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach celebrated the grand opening of the new Child Development Center and School Age Center complex at Katterbach Kaserne Dec. 16, 2013. The new center combines the two previously distinct developmental care centers into one facility.

Guests from the Army Corps of Engineers, the German Bauamt, the regional Child, Youth and School Services, and the Department of Defense Dependent Schools joined the ceremony, which also served as "Winterfest" for the community.

"This is a beautiful building," said Tamara Browning, chief for Child, Youth and School Services. "It is filled with brand new equipment, new supplies and brand new furniture, but what makes it truly special is that it's filled with the caring, compassionate staff, who are honored to serve your children each and every day."

Parents of the children who attend the combined center echoed this sentiment.

"The staff is awesome," said Eddy Claudio, a Soldier at USAG Ansbach. "They've always been awesome."

"The mission of CYS Services is to enhance the readiness and well-being of our service members and their families by providing predictable, affordable and quality programs and services for our children and youths," said Col. Christopher M. Benson, USAG Ansbach and Franconia Military Community commander, during a speech to the audience. "Knowing that there is someone there to ensure the safety, well-being and development of our children strengthens our community and enables us to provide ready and resilient units, Soldiers and Family members for our Army. A strong community translates to a ready and resilient force.

"I'd like to thank our CYSS staff for your untiring professionalism and dedication as you provide safe, quality care to our children each and every day," continued Benson. "Your efforts are appreciated by our entire community."

Col. Peter D. Helmlinger, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Europe, highlighted the features of the building during remarks to the audience. The $11 million facility can safely and comfortably house as many as 230 children at a time, features classrooms, playgrounds, activity rooms, a multi-purpose gym, administrative offices, a reception area and more. Safety features include, according to Helmlinger, a "state-of-the-art" fire prevention system and alarm system.

"As a parent, I understand the need to ensure our kids spend their days in a safe, comfortable facility so we can go about our workdays without worry," said Helmlinger. "This facility provides just that."

One of the facility's features to impress Brigit Jones, teacher for Infant 2, was the new gymnasium. The large open area has a movable partition that, when both school age youths and preschool children must share the space during inclement weather, can separate the two groups from each other for safer indoor physical activities.

"When the weather is bad we can go into the gym with the children, which is really good for the little ones because they need to move," said Jones. "So it's very convenient, especially when it's cold out there during the wintertime."

"Between the Storck and Katterbach CDCs, we have the newest and best child development centers and school age centers in all of Europe," said Benson. "To the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- Europe District, Colonel Helmlinger, you and your team have once again built a beautiful, high-quality facility."

To commemorate the occasion of the Corps of Engineers building passing into garrison hands, Helmlinger gave Benson a large key to the facility, mounted on a plaque. The colonels, staff of facility and of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and a garrison family cut the ribbon on the facility, after which the cake was sliced and served to ceremony attendants.

The Ansbach Middle/High School Junior ROTC provided color guard duties for the grand opening.

The grand opening and Winterfest were made possible through the help of the Area Support Team, the Directorate of Public Works, and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

Besides showing off the new facilities to the USAG Ansbach community, the Winterfest also provided an opportunity to experience holiday cheer. A local national entertainer provided a fire and light show and a unicycle comedy act. A horse drew attendants in a covered carriage. Live reindeer attended a Santa Claus who handed out gifts, heard from children and posed for photographs. Roasted, candied nuts were provided to those waiting in line for Santa. An inflatable planetarium in the gymnasium allowed attendants to explore the cosmos in the comfortable warmth of the gym.

This event followed the opening of the CDC/SAC facility at Storck Barracks. To learn more, visit www.army.mil/article/113198/ or click the link in the "Related Links" section.