GERMERSHEIM ARMY DEPOT -- The Army & Air Force Exchange Service ushered in a new era of service for troops and military families throughout Europe and Southwest Asia as it opened its newest distribution center at the Germersheim Army Depot on Feb. 1.

"This is now the hub for supplying AAFES' newest operations in areas we are sending our troops more frequently and for longer periods as part of our continued commitment to NATO's collective security in the region," said Col. Keith Igyarto, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz commander. "If our Soldiers are there, then we know the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is standing there with us shoulder to shoulder to provide necessities."

The Germersheim Distribution Center ships beverages, boxed food, appliances and more to Exchange main stores and Express locations throughout Europe, Southwest Asia and contingency locations. The Exchange private fleet also transports raw goods and materials from Germersheim to the Exchange's bakery and water plant in Gruenstadt.

The Exchange joins the Defense Logistics and Defense Commissary Agencies, creating a Logistics Center of Excellence at Germersheim. The move lays the foundation for the Exchange to collaborate and work efficiently with these agencies.

"The Exchange's work at the Germersheim distribution center supports every member of the military community," said Army Col. Karen Fleming, the Exchange's deputy director for Logistics. "From here, the Exchange touches the daily lives of warfighters and their families."

Since the 1960s, the Exchange's Europe logistics hub operated out of the Giessen Army Depot. The Exchange distribution center's relocation to Germersheim came at the request of U.S. Army Europe as part of the European Infrastructure Consolidation. The grand opening capped off a move more than a decade in the making.

With the move, the Exchange's warehouse footprint decreased from 1.2 million square feet to 420,000 square feet. The smaller footprint is being offset by more frequent deliveries with smaller shipments to maintain service levels.

"The Exchange updated the infrastructure and equipment and installed new warehouse management software," Fleming said. "Installation Management Command-Europe renovated the buildings, and the Army Corps of Engineers built a new road, allowing trucks to easily reach all of the distribution center's buildings. This was a team effort to reduce expenses and improve efficiencies."

The Exchange invested $12.2 million in infrastructure and equipment upgrades, while IMCOM-E contributed $9.5 million for warehouse renovations and the building of the road.

The relocation is expected to improve speed of service as Germersheim is closer to Exchange customers. From Giessen, Exchange drivers would haul merchandise 100 miles before reaching their first delivery destination. The first delivery point from Germersheim is 65 miles. This more central location reduces an estimated 234,000 miles a year.

The center is closer to the Rhine River and the Port of Germersheim, which adds more flexibility to replenishment operations. In fact, the Exchange expects to avoid nearly $800,000 a year in transportation costs--savings that will ultimately result in better support for military communities throughout the region. Also, the distribution center's maintenance facility performs light maintenance and inspections of tractors and trailers before they go on the road.

"At the Exchange, we are family serving family," Fleming said. "We are honored to be part of the Germersheim community and to serve troops and their families with a taste of home."