GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria created a centralized garrison operations cell to promote rapid combat-readiness, taking a lead in what has become a region wide operational shift, as the U.S. Army moves out with plans to permanently cycle brigade sized troop numbers in Europe for its cross continental deterrence initiative.
Rotational troops began appearing in Europe as early as 2014 with the onset of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the Army's renewed promise of commitment to NATO allies and other European partner nations.
The several hundred troops were only a small shadow of what rotational forces rolling into Army Europe garrisons looked like at the beginning of this year, however, said Jeffery Kinsman, plans and operations specialist for USAG Bavaria. Furthermore, most of these troops plant their tents at USAG Bavaria's training areas -- the largest and busiest training camps in Europe.
At any given point, thousands of Regionally Aligned Forces, permanently-stationed and multinational Soldiers live and train in what has been coined the USAG Bavaria's "Fifth Community."
Garrison Commander Col. Lance Varney, who assumed command of Europe's five-community garrison in Bavaria in July 2016, quickly recognized the need to shake up the status quo and proactively prepare for a historical shift in operational focus, Kinsman said, referring to changes Varney began making as early as last fall.
Among the directed changes included a strategic merge of the garrison's plans and operations divisions and the creation of an installation "Camp Mayor Cell," or CMC -- a routine operations stand-up for deployed units, but wholly unconventional for a garrison.
USAG Bavaria's CMC, known internally as the Camp Management Center, provides the full spectrum of logistical, operational and installation support to rotational forces housed in the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas, the garrison's primary training sites.
"It's not a traditional garrison model. Normally, we just provide [rotational troops] with facilities. But that's not what we're talking about. The garrison is almost providing a model of forward deployment," said Kinsman.
In the last several decades, units from all over the world have trained at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. This is the region's historical mission, Kinsman said. Units passed through briefly, and the camps experienced surges in military troop presence.
But the new RAF units, which roughly comprise half the population in the training areas, are not expected to go anywhere -- at least any time soon, Kinsman said of U.S. Army Europe's continuing, or "heel-to-toe," troop rotations.
"Different units may come and go, but that footprint is basically now permanent," he said. "[The fifth community] is a persistent presence."
The creation of the CMC has allowed USAG Bavaria to redefine how -- and to what extent -- garrison can support cross-national military operations. The garrison's exercise schedule and general training rhythm, known colloquially as "ops tempo," is much higher than those at other installations, Kinsman said.
"We're the biggest -- absolutely the biggest -- show around," Kinsman said of USAG Bavaria. "We're the power projection platform for this entire region of Europe. This is it."
In January, the Army's major nine-month rotations in Europe began; as an armored brigade, combat aviation troops, tanks, air power and other equipment arrived in Europe. According to Kinsman, most of these troops either moved from ports to deployment sites in Eastern Europe or immediately to USAG Bavaria's training areas.
In February, the USAG Bavaria CMC was up and running. Within weeks, kinks that come with implementing a new program were smoothed out, communication channels and systems shaped into place and a comprehensive standard operating procedure was written and in the hands of key exercise planners at U.S. Army Europe headquarters and the 7th Army Training Command, Kinsman said.
HOW THE CAMP MAYOR CELL WORKS
The CMC receives information on incoming troops -- sometimes several months in advance -- and works, in coordination with U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army Training Command, to prepare facilities and ensure all necessary support services are operational. When the unit arrives, the CMC serves as the primary installation interface for unit operation cells.
"We're the mayor cell that talks to all the mayor cells," said 1st Lt. Anthony Fernandez, site manager, USAG Bavaria CMC. "We're like a friendly handshake. We can kind of point people in the right direction or give people the contacts they need."
The CMC team is made up of senior experts from the garrison's plans and operations shop. With rapid mobilization at the top of the team's list of priorities, the Army's ready-to-fight mentality is one they adhere to daily.
"Here's our ultimate goal," Kinsman said, "We want to make sure these units maintain their high level of readiness so that when they get to these camps, there's no blip. They're just kind of plugging into it, and then unplugging when they leave. That's the trick."
From problems like torn screen doors at recreation facilities to more pressing issues regarding deep exercise planning, the CMC relies heavily on garrison organizations and partners, including the USO, Red Cross and Army and Air Force Exchange Services, to make the dynamic mission a success, Kinsman and Fernandez stressed.
In spring of 2018, the next brigade-sized RAF unit and a host of multinational partners will participate in the 18th Joint War Fighter Assessment, a series of capstone exercises that measure the units' war-fighting capabilities and, more importantly, ability to fight together, Kinsman said.
Over 100 representatives from the U.S. Armed Forces and partner militaries, including garrison CMC personnel, met at the Grafenwoehr Training Area last month to form a syndicate for the upcoming exercise, Kinsman added. Members of the Army's Joint Modernization Command, who intend to incorporate elements of research and development into the assessment, were also present in the crowd.