WIESBADEN, Germany - It's nearly impossible to overlook - transformation in U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden is everywhere as it prepares the operational and support facilities for the command and control elements of the expeditionary 7th Army.
New buildings rising in Hainerberg Housing and major face-lifts of existing facilities on Wiesbaden Army Airfield and throughout the garrison are just the beginning of a major construction effort over the next five years. These projects are aimed at enhancing the infrastructure and providing modern living, support and operational facilities for the Soldiers, civilians and families who will live and work here in the years to come.
"Although initially an inconvenience, this will have a huge, positive impact on the quality of life," said Judith Rodriguez Vera, chief of the engineering division for USAG Wiesbaden's Transformation Stationing Management Office. "We are trying to minimize the traffic and construction impact on community members as much as possible."
Family housing upgrades are underway with five Whole Neighborhood Revitalization Projects in full swing in Aukamm, Crestview and Wiesbaden Army Airfield housing. Another will start in Crestview in the near future.
"Construction is planned to upgrade existing and build new family and single Soldier housing, enhance community support facilities and provide state-of-the-art operational facilities," said Roger Gerber, USAG Wiesbaden's Transformation Stationing Management Office chief.
The results will be 38 completely renovated duplexes and 41 multiplexes, said Rodriguez Vera. These Whole Neighborhood Revitalization Projects are expected to be completed in the winter of 2009.
"With the multiplexes we're 'right-sizing' them - merging apartments to offer more space," she said. "Apartments increase in size from about 90 square meters to 120 square meters. The residents gain a lot of room. Also everything is new - the electrical wiring, the heating systems - the entire building is renovated."
In the case of the duplexes, while they too get a complete overhaul and upgrade, space remains the same, Rodriguez Vera said.
"We've spent $100 million in the last two years for renovation of these buildings," she said, adding that not only are the interiors and exteriors of housing units being completely upgraded, repair of walkways, parking, playgrounds and landscaping is included.
"We're installing updated technology to meet environmental standards," said the engineering chief, explaining that new backflow prevention valves in the plumbing, energy-saving light fixtures and the latest heating technology have been incorporated.
Another Whole Neighborhood Revitalization Project beginning next year will see nine buildings in Hainerberg and eight single houses in Aukamm getting the upgrade treatment. In addition to these renovations, a new 326-unit townhouse-style housing area is under development on land just south of the airfield. The project will provide housing for a mix of general officer, junior and senior officer, and junior and senior enlisted quarters, along with three new sports fields, a running path and playgrounds, said Gerber. Construction in this area will begin with the demolition of the existing Basic Load Storage Area next spring.
Single Soldier housing is also getting upgraded, Gerber said. Under the Army's Flagship Program, barracks and office space, including 1st Armored Division's Headquarters, is being renovated for units deployed.
"The goal is to finish up in the October/November time frame before Soldiers return from Iraq," Rodriguez Vera said. "When the units return, they'll see that their facilities have been improved while they were downrange. We want to honor their service."
Family housing units have also been converted to single Soldier housing to accommodate current requirements, said the TSMO chief. A future construction project will add approximately 240 additional barracks spaces, allowing all of the barracks to be converted to the Army's "1+1" standard.
"Enhancing our community support facilities is also very important," said Gerber. With that goal in sight, the new Army Lodge in Hainerberg Housing will be completed in September 2009. A new Teen Center, located behind Army Community Service in Hainerberg Housing, is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
"It's (the Teen Center) a much better facility than the old one located by the high school. It will be equipped with a computer center, dance floor and disco lights," said Rodriguez Vera.
The initial phase of work on the Hainerberg Chapel - new pews, heating and other enhancements - is scheduled to be completed before the holidays, allowing services in December. A second phase will begin early next year when services will once again be temporarily relocated.
Another major project in Hainerberg Housing is the construction of a new bowling center, next to the new Army lodging facility. Demolition of two vacant buildings behind ACS to make way for the new center is slated for mid-October. "Construction will start in January 2009 and end in May 2010," she said. "We'll have 16 lanes in the two-story facility. It will feature a video room, cafeteria-style restaurant, conference/event rooms, a Kids Zone, slot machines and pool/billiards."
Another aspect of the community support transformation is a new co-located Post Exchange and Commissary complex in Hainerberg, Gerber said.
As part of community support transformation, Wiesbaden schools will also be the focus of major construction. A new multipurpose room, a new classroom building providing enhanced chemistry and biology labs, and a new gym are all part of the package.
"It's not an easy project because we don't want to disrupt school while the work progresses," she said. Work is scheduled to begin early next year and be finished by December 2012. "That's a long time because we have to reconfigure everything - to coordinate the demolition and the construction so as not to stop school service." An additional project at the elementary and middle school will provide a multi-purpose room which will be used for a cafeteria.
"The final piece of this transformation effort is renovating operational facilities," said Gerber. Renovation of headquarters facilities for the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, relocating from Darmstadt, is nearing completion. "This will allow most of the brigade to live and work here in Wiesbaden. For the near term, some personnel will continue to commute to the Darmstadt Dagger complex until the new Consolidated Intelligence Center facility is constructed on Wiesbaden Army Airfield for the 66th MI Brigade and the European Security Operations Center."
Also on Wiesbaden Army Airfield construction will begin in November for renovation of the old 3rd Corps Support Command headquarters, Building 1007, and adjacent Buildings 1008 and 1009 for the move of 5th Signal Command from Mannheim to Wiesbaden beginning in summer 2009. A 2010 Military Construction project for a new Network Warfare Center to manage the theater-wide network will complete the 5th Signal Command facilities.
"The keystone to the entire transformation effort is the new 7th Army Theater Command and Control facility. This state-of-the-art facility, currently under design for construction start next spring, will provide 1,280 work spaces for the transformed expeditionary 7th Army Headquarters," said Gerber. "It will include collaborative staff work areas and a 130-seat Combined Operations and Intelligence Center for command and control of deployed joint task forces and other subordinate units, as well as managing 7th Army's ongoing theater engagement and administrative responsibilities throughout the European and African Command areas of responsibility."
Existing buildings on Wiesbaden Army Airfield will be renovated to accommodate about 600 7th Army staff personnel who are not directly involved in planning and executing contingency operations and need workspace outside of the new C2 facility.
To provide space for the additional operational units stationed on Wiesbaden Army Airfield, some garrison functions will locate to other garrison locations, such as the American Arms Hotel, Mainz-Kastel, and upon completion of the new PX and Commissary, Hainerberg, Gerber said.
"To ease congestion accessing Wiesbaden Army Airfield and enhance security, a new five-lane Access Control Point and ring road around the interior perimeter of the installation will be constructed," he said.
"As part of the new construction projects two new parking garages will be built to accommodate 1,700 automobiles. The interior of the installation will be primarily a pedestrian zone, with bike access to the single Soldier and new family housing areas," Gerber added.
"We're also doing a lot of work on utility lines (including electrical, sewage, water) in preparation for the new buildings," said Rodriguez Vera. "Preparation work for the housing area will start next spring."