ANSBACH, Germany (Feb. 20, 2015) -- U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach held community town halls at the Storck Barracks and Bismarck Kaserne theaters Feb. 11.

The town hall is a quarterly forum wherein the garrison command team and garrison community members discuss issues that affect USAG Ansbach.

"We are going to encounter a lot of challenges," said Col. Christopher M. Benson, USAG Ansbach commander, who led the town hall discussion. "In 2014, we saw quite a bit of challenges, we fought through them, and we were successful in many of those challenges. 2015 is going to be the same."

After a brief overview of the USAG Ansbach community's accomplishments, Benson highlighted a few of the upcoming challenges. These included increased force protection; a recent decision that came from the Department of Defense's European Infrastructure Consolidation, or EIC, study; and the recent policy by German law enforcement that deems expired stateside driver's licenses null despite valid USAREUR licenses.

Benson addressed increased force protection measures with the community members. He did not anticipate a decrease from the current standard.

"I don't see that going down any time soon, so all the measures that you have in place now, all the things that we're doing -- this is the new normal," said Benson.

Expired U.S. driver's licenses, even if legal to operate in the U.S. owing to an automatic or mail-in extension, may not be legally considered valid by host nation law enforcement. German officials do not know the rules of the U.S.'s 56 license-issuing jurisdictions and will therefore only determine the validity of a license by the date printed on the card.

"Look at your own driver's license, determine when it expires based on that date," said Benson. "And then if it has expired or is going to expire soon, contact your state and see if you can get it renewed and get a new date on it."

This subject generated many questions, some of which were addressed by Ramon Brown, USAG Ansbach provost marshal. Brown recommended drivers call a licensing office in their home state and talk to personnel directly to explain that only a newly issued card with new dates would satisfy host nation authorities.

"There are states that will issue a letter, a small decal or second card that endorses your original license and says it is still good for another five years," said Brown. "Those stickers, additional cards or letters will not be accepted by the German police.

"Contact your state, and you explain (the situation)" continued Brown. "They may be willing to turn around and reissue you a new driver's license with a new expiration date with your old photo."

Both Benson and Brown warned against the consequences of driving with an expired license.

"I would not recommend you driving on an expired license," said Benson. "There are fines, and there is liability potentially for driving on an expired license."

"The rule is -- as far as the German authorities are concerned -- if your driver's license is expired from your state, you are not authorized to drive," said Brown. "I have to make that as clear a statement (as possible)."

Concerning USAG Ansbach's part in the EIC study, it was announced in January that Barton Barracks would close by 2021 and that the Storck Barracks commissary would close in 2015.

To alleviate the effects the commissary's closure will have on USAG Ansbach community members at Storck Barracks, Benson outlined what they have already done. The garrison talked with local officials to convince local grocers to stock more American products in their international food aisles. Army Community Service has already delivered one class on visiting German grocery stores, which includes a tour of a local grocery store, and there will be future classes on it as well. The garrison is discussing with AAFES how to increase their selection of products at Storck to make up for the future absence of the commissary, according to Benson. The command group is looking at the possibility of increasing shuttle services from Storck to Urlas.

"There are other options out there that we're exploring right now, but those are some measures that we're taking to minimize the impact of the closure of the Storck commissary," said Benson.

The next quarter's town halls will be announced through the garrison's home page, social media and other outlets.

Town halls are not the only means by which to ask questions. USAG Ansbach hosts several social media outlets as well as a blog and more. Visit the home page at www.ansbach.army.mil or the "Contact Us" page in the "Related Links" section above.