By Nathan Van Schaik and Jackie Pennoyer, UAG Bavaria Public AffairsApril 6, 2016
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- The garrison commander here hosted a community town hall March 31 emphasizing how the U.S. Army's evolving priorities will impact U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria.
Col. Mark Colbrook described how the Army's mission will affect garrison services in the coming years, and provided Soldiers and family members with options to raise concerns, ask questions and effect change during this transition.
"In order to understand where USAG Bavaria is going," Colbrook said, "we have to understand the core functions of the Army. Warfighting is our primary mission. This is important to understand because this is what drives Army resource decisions."
"When you put in context what we do in the Army -- both on the operational side of the Army, which includes our tactical units, and the supporting elements such as the garrison here -- you can understand that all the resources tied to each must tie back to the mission of the Army."
The Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley has been very clear with explaining the Army's priorities.
"We must ensure the Army remains ready as the world's premier combat force. Readiness for ground combat is -- and will remain -- the U.S. Army's #1 priority," Milley said in his initial message to the Army.
So what does the word "readiness" imply?
The way the Army deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan is "not useful for the world we live in right now," said Lt. Gen. Patrick J. Donahue III, the deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Forces Command, speaking at an Army symposium last month.
Surge-ready, Donahue said, means that a unit's mission-essential task list, or METL, must include the ability to deploy with all its equipment. The installation must also have the ability to deploy that equipment and actually train for it, he said.
The Army Force Generation model, or ARFORGEN, was used for 13 years and is similar to an assembly line: A brigade would have a production date on that assembly line to be ready by a certain date. But today's new environment demands a new model, which looks to be "surge-ready and rotationally-focused."
So how does readiness -- the Army's top priority -- affect Soldiers and families stationed in Grafenwoehr, Vilseck, Hohenfels or Garmisch?
Installation Management Command -- the Army agency that provides oversight over U.S. Army garrisons, which include USAG Bavaria -- has been tasked to take a share of the reductions so the Army as a whole can maintain readiness, Colbrook said.
"The Army essentially has to buy back more readiness. That means that we at IMCOM and within the garrison have to find ways to gain efficiencies, identify things that we're going to stop doing, and reduce our resources to buy the readiness we need to support the Army's mission."
Community members within USAG Bavaria can expect a scaling back of some programs over the next few years so that the Army can buy back operational power. The garrison here, however, has mitigated much of the impact when, in 2013, it eliminated many redundancies when it consolidated Army installations at Grafenwoehr, Vilseck, Hohenfels and Garmisch and re-designated itself as one garrison: USAG Bavaria.
Already, changes to the evolving role of the Army in Europe are taking affect. Just last week, European Command announced that U.S. Army Europe will begin receiving continuous troop rotations of U.S.-based armored brigade combat teams, or ABCTs, in February 2017. That will bring the total Army presence in Europe up to three fully-manned Army brigades.
A brigade consists of about 4,000 -- 5,000 troops. There are only two brigade combat teams stationed in Europe -- the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat out of Vicenza, Italy, and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany.
The last ABCT stationed in Grafenwoehr was the 172nd Infantry Brigade, which de-activated in 2013. Grafenwoehr's Tower Barracks is outfitted to support and sustain an ABCT.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: HOW YOU CAN PLAY A ROLE
"The Army is a people-centric organization," Colbrook said, adding that "the Army's strength is in its people. As a result, the Army must invest in its people."
"We must focus on the critical services and be prepared to scale back or eliminate non-essential ones," he said.
At the garrison, that translates into providing quality customer service, and necessary programs to enable ready and resilient Soldiers, civilians and families.
Your voice is critical to achieve this goal. Plug in and stay connected to the evolving situation through the garrison's website, www.bavaria.army.mil, and its Facebook page. Use the following communication channels to tie into the Army's mission.
1. Interactive Customer Evaluation. The Interactive Customer Evaluation, or ICE, is one of the most effective ways to enact meaningful change on an organizational level. Whether your concern involves the Bavarian Health Clinic, Housing Office or AAFES locations, all ICE comments are addressed promptly -- ideally within three days -- and are reviewed by the organization's leaders. To provide feedback on the Commissary, submit a comment through the Commissary Comment Form. To learn a few tips on writing effective complaints, check out our article, "How to write ICE comments that deliver results."
2. Community Leadership Information Forum. Similar to Town Halls, the Community Leadership Information Forum, or CLIF, is an interactive gathering of senior leaders to articulate issues carried up the chain of command and provide timely solutions. Many CLIF topics come from the families and Soldiers of a unit. They are specifically identified, tracked on a monthly basis and published as CLIF slides to maintain accountability.
"Any issues submitted through the chain of command are brought up as an issue during that month's CLIF," said Colbrook. "We don't put a closing date on the issue-tracker until we've done what we can do to address the issue. All the products we produce are then made available to everyone though our website."
3. Facebook. USAG Bavaria manages an active Facebook page, providing the most up-to-date news, event details and -- whenever necessary -- crisis communication. Questions relating to a particular post can be submitted, as long as they abide by specific regulations. The USAG Bavaria Public Affairs Office manages the page and is staffed to respond in about two hours during regular working hours.
4. Town Halls. Although town halls are held bi-annually, more information-specific town halls may crop-up on an as-needed basis. These are great opportunities to directly address garrison leadership and engage with others on issues affecting the entire community.
5. Open-Door Policy. As a last resort, the garrison commander has an Open-Door Policy, which makes both himself and his Command Sergeant Major available to any Soldier, civilian or family member to help with any unresolved issues. All command policies are available at www.bavaria.army.mil/policies.