By CSM Cam PorterSeptember 30, 2016
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Coleman Barracks was seven weeks away from a permanent shutdown. U.S. Army Europe was drawing down, and the senior leadership had selected the installation in Mannheim to close its doors for good.
That was late 2014. And that was about to change.
Instead of closing, Coleman was selected as USAREUR's site for the European Activity Set, also known as EAS, where thousands of vehicles and pieces of equipment could receive depot level maintenance and full reset, be staged and stored, and ultimately be issued back out to Army combat brigades rotating in and out of Europe. With easy autobahn access, seven kilometers of railhead track and a barge site just 15 minutes away, it only made sense to keep Coleman open and use it in such a capacity.
In February 2015 the EAS mission at the re-designated Coleman Work Site was at initial operating capability, and fully operational by that fall. Since then several units have come through the site to both receive and turn in thousands of items of equipment and vehicles, from M1 Abrams tanks and M1126 Stryker combat vehicles to camouflage netting and tents and everything in between.
The latest unit to come through Colman Work Site during the last week of September was the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
After six months forward deployed to places like Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania and more, the brigade, which is based out of Fort Stewart, Ga., is returning home. Their primary mission while in USAREUR for the last six months: to deter aggression and support the European Reassurance Initiative. Their last mission in USAREUR: to turn in all their equipment and vehicles at Coleman and go home.
For Sgt. April Van this is nothing new. The service and recovery mechanic is finishing up her third rotation to Europe with 1st ABCT.
Assigned to the 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, Van and a small team of Soldiers have the daunting task of recovering broke down vehicles and equipment. Using a 10-ton recovery vehicle and responsible for fixing inoperative vehicles and equipment on the spot or getting them off the road and back where they can be repaired, Van has gotten quite familiar with her job and the terrain in Europe.
"I think I've been in Germany more than my home station of Fort Stewart," she said. "In two years' time, I did two 3-month tours over here and now I'm finishing up a 6-month tour."
But when it comes to the turn-in of her wrecker and all her gear, to include her weapon, she's received plenty of help at Coleman. Matt Wheeler is the site manager at Coleman, and he said on any given day at the small installation you can find upwards to 300-400 contracted maintainers and mechanics as well as a small operations staff and a contingency of security personnel.
And the support has only grown.
"Last time I was here six months ago the facilities were much less than they are now," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Adkins, the battalion maintenance officer at 3rd BSB, 1st ABCT. "There is a now a shoppette, large living quarters and better facilities overall. It's a lot better now."
Wheeler said that when it was decided Coleman would remain open to support EAS, there were only two buildings still in use. That number has increased to about 40 now. This meant reestablishing communications, utilities such as water and electricity, and getting the installation back up and running again.
Coleman relies heavily on its higher headquarters, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz in Kaiserslautern, said Wheeler, especially the Directorate of Public Works, the environmental, utilities and safety offices.
"Just knowing that the headquarters is there to assist is really important, and it's always nice when they come out to visit," Wheeler said.
It's certainly a team effort when rotational units and all their vehicles and equipment come through Coleman as part of the EAS mission.
Following each rotation, all the vehicles and equipment arrive at a staging area where operator-level maintenance as well as preventative checks and services are conducted. From there, all the vehicles, as well as much of the equipment, go to wash racks to be thoroughly cleaned. Next up, each vehicle and large end item -- as well as all corresponding kits, tools and additional parts -- are inspected jointly by the operator and a contractor at Coleman to ensure everything is accounted for and in good serviceable condition. Finally, the equipment is moved to a staging area where it's ready for the next rotational brigade to arrive and receive it.
But that's about to change too.
John Galimore, the EAS site manager who is assigned to the 405th Army Field Support Brigade, said this is the last rotational unit in Europe to use the prepositioned equipment at Coleman. The next unit, the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colo., will be bringing over its own vehicles and equipment, and what's at Coleman now -- literally thousands of end items from Strykers to Humvees and more -- will be moved to other locations in Central Europe as prepositioned stock to be used during contingency operations.
In the meantime, Coleman Work Site will continue to serve as a logistical hub for the staging and throughput of rotational combat units and their equipment arriving and departing Europe.