GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria leadership and community members discussed several significant topics affecting the Rose and Tower Barracks communities during a Garrison Town Hall Nov. 14 at the Netzaberg Middle School in the Netzaberg community of Eschenbach, Germany.
The event, which was live-streamed to the Garrison's official Facebook page, was this quarter's opportunity for Garrison Commander Col. Adam J. Boyd to provide a transparent status update to the community, and for community members to get information, ask questions and voice concerns.
"We want to make sure that we are also giving you a bit more information," said Boyd in his welcoming remarks. "If you go back in time, some of these (town halls) began with a focus on just housing. We are widening the aperture. We are going to be talking about more things than just housing that are things that are important for you to know across the garrison, across our communities."
Boyd began the town hall with a note about mental health resources at USAG Bavaria, encouraging community members to use these resources and also take advantage of enjoying Bavaria by attending upcoming holiday events both on and off post. Community members can find more information on the Garrison Thanksgiving meals and tree lighting events, as well as local Christmas markets, by visiting bavariannews.com.
He then segued into a more pressing topic for the community: cost of living allowance. COLA has been a contentious topic here since the decrease in early 2019.
Boyd used the town hall as an opportunity to inform community members on the two surveys used to determine COLA, and provided an example of how a COLA index is calculated for a given item or service using the Retail Price Schedule (RPS) survey that is conducted annually. More information about this year's survey can be found at www.bavariannews.com/cross-section-of-usareur-soldiers-determine-cost-of-living-in-germany/.
The more important survey is the Life Pattern Survey that occurs every three years, said Boyd.
"It is done for a locale, and right now Tower Barracks and Rose Barracks are (combined) into one entity. Grafenwoehr is considered one location," said Boyd. "I will give you the precursor right now. I have asked to do an out-of-cycle Life Pattern Survey this coming late summer as we stand up the rest of 41st Fires because we're going to have a different pattern of life and more people here. And two, I asked to separate Tower from Rose Barracks - specifically because we have a significant larger quantity of folk who live on post on Rose Barracks than here on Tower Barracks, and they are more apt to purchase only at the commissary."
The out-of-cycle survey has already been approved, and so Boyd issued a call to action for community members to be on the lookout for and complete the survey when it comes out in late summer-early fall of 2020.
"I ask that you take this one seriously. I get it, there is survey burnout ... but this one actually affects your pocket. This one affects your checkbook," said Boyd. "So help us identify the realities of where you are purchasing things with this Life Pattern Survey."
Moving onto the list of items that are looked at specifically for the RPS, Boyd listed his concerns about how the list of 120 goods and services is determined, and also how a weight system - if there is one - is applied.
Another major topic of the evening was Army Family Housing.
Like most of the USAG Bavaria town halls that have occurred since February 2019, this one also put a large focus on current and pending improvements at the Directorate of Public Works.
For community members who missed the last housing-centric town hall in September, the acting housing chief, Jose SolisRodriguez, went through a recap of what's the same and what's different.
Much of the information has stayed the same since September's town hall, but SolisRodriguez did elaborate on how the increase of new employees has allowed the various Housing Services offices to better support the large number of daily customers.
"We went through a major manpower review where we got authorizations to hire more people in the housing area to be able to provide you more services or at least to have more people to attend to (customers) on a daily basis," said SolisRodriguez. "We basically have anywhere from 200 to 300 people walking through the housing area."
One item that continues to be in-progress, however, is the development of a service and maintenance transparency tracker, which will provide automatic email notification for work order status, a user-friendly public website to check the status of a work order, and a ticket ID number for customers.
"The tracker is already developed. We are just waiting on the final approval so we can actually launch it and give you a better view (of) your work order updates without having to call," said SolisRodriguez.
Part of the housing discussion included information on the current Army Family Housing Survey conducted by CEL & Associates. The survey, which is live through Dec. 12, will provide garrison officials with firsthand accounts of what Soldiers and their families find important in U.S. Army Housing and to gauge satisfaction with property-management services.
"This matters because we are looking to figure out the best way solve all our problems," said Boyd, using this time to issue another call to action for families to complete the survey.
"I need a wide distribution to accurately reflect that which is good, that which is bad and that which we absolutely must change, and that only is going to come when I hear from all of you," he added.
Survey links were distributed via e-mail to the e-mail address that was provided to Housing at the time of in-processing. Community members who have not received the email by Nov. 18 are advised to first check their bulk and spam folders, and then contact the housing office at email@example.com.
More information about the survey can be found at www.army.mil/article/229539/.
Boyd also went through a few slides of information about lock-out procedures, key future construction and renovation projects across the footprint, changes to employee training, and better use of Garrison resources and employees.
The town hall presentation slides ended with information on how to submit service orders. To submit a service order, dial DSN 475-6324, CIV 09641-83-6324. Community members can also make work order requests by visiting the garrison website for work order request forms and email information: https://home.army.mil/bavaria/index.php/WorkOrder.
For more information about USAG Bavaria Housing, visit https://home.army.mil/bavaria/index.php/housing.