KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Helmut Haufe remembers the early days.
The General Support Center - Europe was activated after being split from the 29th Area Support Group, July 1998. Haufe was selected to be the director of the GSC-E. The first German national to take charge of a U.S. Army complex and multifunctional logistics brigade-level organization.
"When we formed this organization, our most critical challenge was convincing our workforce of the new concept," he said. "They thought they'd be outsourced or fired. It was important to attain their buy-in. So I told them, 'you give me your full effort and trust, and we will earn job security through proving the relevancy of our organization.'"
That was 20 years and 11 commanding generals ago.
The organization was re-designated as the Theater Logistics Support Center-Europe - and has expanded its core competencies of theater supply and maintenance into a brigade-sized element with the added scope of overseeing ammunition support, line-haul transportation throughout Europe, as well as operating the Deployment Processing Center, which was re-assigned to TLSC-E in 2015.
The TLSC-E commemorated its 20th anniversary on July 15, 2018, and employs more than 1,400 personnel in diverse trades, local national and Department of the Army civilians building a team of flexible logistics professionals.
Haufe -- now the general manager of TLSC-E -- has worked for the Army for more than 35 years, including 20 years in his current assignment.
"We started out as a maintenance and supply organization with 5 maintenance activities and a supply activity," said Haufe. "However, in 2006 we picked up transportation, the 6966th Truck Transportation Terminal as a line function, and in 2007 we picked up ammunition supply responsibilities."
Time has come full-circle for Haufe and Maj. Gen. Steven A. Shapiro, 21st Theater Sustainment Command commanding general. Shapiro and Haufe worked together when Haufe was the Civilian Executive Assistant to the Commander of the 29th ASG and Shapiro - an Army Captain at the time - was a logistics operations officer assigned to the Support Group.
"Helmut was the deputy commander of the 29th ASG," Shapiro said. "The commander very much relied on Helmut for a variety of operations. Helmut was his deep thinker on hard logistics issues."
Later, they served a tour in the Balkans together as part of the NATO Implementation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, Shapiro leads the sustainment command that TLSC-E supports - similar to the relationship between a division and brigade.
"We were in the Balkans together when Major General Shapiro was a captain in 1995," Haufe said. "We built the life support area in Bosnia, and he's my boss now. So my advice is, to be nice to every first lieutenant and captain you have the opportunity to work with."
Earlier this year, Shapiro visited Haufe at the TLSC-E where Haufe introduced him to multiple members of the TLSC-E team that were serving in the ASG when Shapiro was there years before.
"That level of continuity and belonging makes TLSC-E special," Shapiro said. "TLSC-E builds a level of muscle memory that you can't get in a tactical organization. It also helps us connect with the local communities. Having local nationals who are friends of America is incredibly beneficial."
The TLSC-E is comprised of Maintenance Activity Kaiserslautern, Maintenance Activity Vilseck, 6966th TTT, Supply Activity Europe, Ammunition Center Europe, and the Deployment Processing Center. TLSC-E provides support to force projection, supply, maintenance, distribution and all other logistical functions to help maintain the rotational force readiness and collective regional security. The TLSC-E has grown over the years to support not just Germany but the European Command as a whole. One of its responsibilities is ammunition supply at the Ammunition Center Europe. As the sole supplier of munitions for the Army in Europe, ACE supports other Services in Europe for many EUCOM operational and training needs for ammunition, large-caliber rockets and missiles.
"TLSC-E has always been a part of the logistics underpinning of what happens in Europe," Shapiro said. "When something happens in Europe, there is a guarantee TLSC-E is there in some way, shape, or form. From convoys to the Black Sea, to fest tents in northern European ports, TLSC-E's presence is always felt."
When 2nd Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team arrived at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, in May 2018, there was no ramp to load the vehicles onto the railhead. However, TLSC-E designed and fabricated ramps from an armored vehicle-launched bridge, and used that ramp to on load the tanks from the railhead.
"I can't think of another organization with that kind of ingenuity and know how," Shapiro said.
That kind of ingenuity and technical expertise has been institutionalized into the TLSC-E by a workforce with generations of experience. The TLSC-E uses an apprenticeship program that recruits a workforce that it can retain and develop over several decades.
"A lot of the founding mothers and fathers are still here," Haufe said. "We've grown and developed the organization in a way that can only be done as a team. Now, there's not a month that goes by where I don't retire employees who often have 40 to 50 years of service with us - an entire professional life. It gives you a tremendous edge over other organizations which rotate their entire workforce every two or three years."
One big role is transportation, which the 6966th TTT provides. The 6966th TTT has been around since 1953 and subsequent to its activation has provided transportation support, said Winfried Wilhelm, general manager of the 6966th TTT.
"We provide on time, safe and economical common user land transportation service to the commander United States European Command," Wilhelm said.
The 6966th TTT was integrated into the TLSC-E in 2006 and provides logistical support throughout Europe. Within the unit is a supply section, transportation operations and training section, maintenance branch, motor operations branch, and a mail center. The TLSC-E picked up ammunition supply activities a year later.
It's a formula for success that is more simple than complicated, Haufe said.
"The most important insights are so simple that they are often forgotten," Haufe said. "It's truly quite simple. It's not complicated or a matter of reading 25 books. It's about knowing, ideally anticipating, the needs of the Soldiers and units you support and providing reliable services and quality products at a reasonable cost. It is called operational and economical relevancy."