By Mr. Jason L Austin (IMCOM)June 17, 2009
MANNHEIM, Germany -- When Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Underwood, 202nd Military Police Group (CID), joined the Army, Brig. Gen. David H. Stem was the commandant of the MP Corps, and he remembers hearing Stem speak at functions.
"Coming to Stem Kaserne was like seeing an old friend," said Underwood, who has served on the installation for a year. "Walking in every morning and seeing his photograph was pretty nice."
During a brief ceremony June 11, Underwood and the rest of the 202nd said goodbye to the kaserne as they cased the unit colors to relocate to Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern as part of the Army in Europe transformation plans.
They are, however, taking part of the installation with them, a monument dedicating the former Autobahn Kaserne to the memory of Stem, who died in an aviation accident while on active duty.
The monument will take a place in a grove of trees behind the new Stem Investigative Building on Kleber.
The group has command and control over criminal investigation units throughout Europe who support the commanders and military communities of the U.S. Army in Europe and supports contingency operations throughout the European, African, Middle East and Southwest Asian areas of responsibility.
The 202nd has spent the last four decades on the kaserne, which also houses the European Special Investigations and Fraud Field Office, the military police dog kennels, the Army and Air Force Exchange Vending Machine Distribution Office and an AAFES warehouse.
Over the past year, as the group prepared to relocate, it allowed the personnel numbers to decrease and offered to extend or curtail assignments to lessen the number of people impacted by a mid-tour permanent change of station.
"There's only a handful of us who are actually making the move," Underwood said.
The ceremony, however, wasn't only a symbolic gesture. It served as an opportunity for the 202nd to recognize Stem's commitment to the Criminal Investigations Command, known as CID.
Stem was pivotal in the Army's centralization and consolidation of its felony crime investigative assets into a single major command, according to the ceremony's master of ceremonies, Maj. Jennifer Schroeder, deputy commanding officer, 202nd MP Group (CID).
After covering the monument to Stem, in preparation for transport, Underwood presented a cased flag, which had flown over the kaserne, to Capt. David H. Stem Jr., who works at the U.S. Army Europe Office of the Judge Advocate.
Capt. Stem grew up on Patrick Henry Village, and now his children are growing up on PHV as well.
"Growing up as a child, you get to know what your parents' interests are, and certainly law enforcement, CID, that was something that was a daily part of our lives," Stem said.
"I took sort of a different path, to be a lawyer involved in these types of issues rather than a commander of an investigative unit," he said. "But, it's all one law enforcement community."
The look and feel of that community in Europe is changing with the move to Kaiserslautern, Underwood said.
"For the Military Police Corps, this was the center hub. For us, you hop right on the autobahn and go visit all your offices and do all the things you need to do," he said, adding that Kleber Kaserne is a bit out of the way.
Through his five tours in Germany, Underwood recalled many times coming to Stem Kaserne for special events, change of command ceremonies or investigative task forces.
"It was nice to start my career knowing about Stem (Kaserne)," Underwood said. "I've got a lot of fond memories here ... we've gotta create a new home down at Kleber Kaserne."
(Editor's Note: Jason L. Austin writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper the Herald Post.)