GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany — Most U.S. Soldiers and many allied Soldiers who have forward deployed to a combat zone since the 1950s have probably spent some time at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in the Bavarian region of Germany.
The installation has served as a critical component for global U.S. Army operations since being originally built up in the 1950’s after World War II, with rotational troops conducting extensive pre-deployment training there. Additionally, the site regularly hosts important training for U.S. and allied troops during large-scale exercises.
Many of the facilities used by troops rotating through are still the original structures from when the installation was first developed, meaning not only are they dated but many don’t meet modern Army standards. Additionally, it’s no longer considered cost effective to continue renovating many of the aged facilities in place.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District is working with U.S. Army Europe and Africa, the 7th Army Training Command, the garrison, the German government, and other partners to deliver new facilities for brigades training in Grafenwoehr, who are often en route to deployments.
“Troops at Grafenwoehr are rotating through, often in preparation for tough deployments downrange and the training they receive just prior to those deployments is mission critical,” said Europe District Project Manager Erasmo Rivera. “Delivering state of the art training facilities and modern quality of life amenities like barracks and dining facilities is our way to help ensure Soldiers can continue to focus on their training going forward rather than maybe their lodging or other facilities they’re relying on.”
Design is already underway on a new brigade-level Operational Readiness Training Complex, or ORTC, in the Grafenwoehr Training Area Camps, the fifth community of the installation.
This will involve the construction of modern training facilities and everything needed to sustain the 3,000 to 5,000 Soldiers that make up a brigade and its battalions. So that means barracks, officer quarters, battalion headquarters facilities, company headquarters facilities, dining facilities, motor pools, a brigade headquarters and also parking, heating, rail and other infrastructure.
The new ORTC is the beginning of a larger effort to modernize the sprawling Grafenwoehr Training Area, which encompasses more than 50,000 acres. Rather than try to replace individual buildings in a piecemeal approach, USAREUR-AF and the garrison engaged the U.S. Army Europe District’s Installation Support Branch to lead the effort to establish a long-term, strategic Area Development Execution Plan to guide modernization of the entire fifth community area of Grafenwoehr over the next several years.
The ADEP’s vision calls for creating “compact campuses with Bavarian buildings, centralized support services, and perimeter mission facilities connected to a walkable and multi-modal transportation network.”
The fifth community Barracks ORTC effort involves the construction of more than 30 new facilities in total over the next several years. This would be the first of those “compact campuses.”
The overall ADEP’s long-term plan provides a road map for the gradual construction of hundreds more potential facilities over the next 30 years to replace facilities intended to serve several brigades. That long-term plan includes outlines for modernization of Camp Aachen, Camp Algier, Camp Normandy, and Camp Kasserine.
Even though the Grafenwoehr Training Area has served for roughly 70 years now, it’s impossible for anyone to predict the future, especially as far out as 30 years. The ADEP is not an authorizing document and does not provide funding, but rather gives a framework for future development. That’s why the ADEP has built in what’s referred to as a Regulating Plan. This provides overarching guidance for development, knowing that the exact path forward for development is likely to change over the coming decades due to uncertainty in anything from funding to future mission requirements.
“Think of the Regulating Plan like a city's zoning code,” said Europe District Community Planner Nathan Kent-Harber. “The Regulating Plan is form-based, so it's more concerned with where the building sits on the project site, minimum and maximum height, where parking is permitted, location of primary building entrance, and amount of fenestration or window design, for example. How this mitigates the uncertainty is by allowing different, yet compatible use types on the plan.”
Traditionally, when master planning for a military installation an Area Development Plan is developed, which is more akin to what people might associate with a master plan. In completing an Area Development Execution Plan, the team was able to get a jump start on initial design elements, like utilities and other infrastructure needed for this next wave of construction for the ORTC.
“The 7th Army Training Command already knew they needed to begin building certain new facilities, when we began the ADP process the first two phases of the ORTC began design and things were moving quite quickly,” Kent-Harber said. “It actually worked out really well because a lot of what was being discussed in the design, we were able to bring into the planning of the later phases so there was a lot of good collaboration through both processes.”
With the ADEP in hand, the ORTC team was able to leverage some of their work and has since completed the initial 35 percent design milestone. With that, the design effort has been turned over to the Army’s German partners and is on track to be completed later this year. The goal is to break ground in 2022 on the first facilities in the ORTC with construction of the several facilities being carried out over the next several years.
After that, the plan is for aging facilities to be removed and replaced with brigade sets methodically over the coming decades to ensure the Grafenwoehr Training Area can continue to play the important role in pre-deployment that it has played for the past 70 years for many years to come.