A MPD customer service representative assists a Soldier in-processing at Kleber Kaserne.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A MPD customer service representative assists a Soldier in-processing at Kleber Kaserne. (Photo Credit: Nicole Alberico) VIEW ORIGINAL
Central Processing Center on Kleber Kaserne.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Central Processing Center on Kleber Kaserne. (Photo Credit: Nicole Alberico) VIEW ORIGINAL

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Whether it’s a Soldier’s first or 15th permanent change of station event, planning and executing a move across an ocean can be quite the undertaking, especially during the summer months.

But what about the people behind the orders?

The peak PCS season runs April 1 through Sept. 30. Or, as Ivor Watson, puts it, “every summer is a surge.”

According to Watson, chief of the garrison’s military personnel division, his team’s “surge” entailed approximately 3,800 Soldiers and family members coming to or leaving the Kaiserslautern and Baumholder military communities.

The PCS process to and from a foreign country is not as simple as printing a set of orders, pouring liquids into a three-ounce bottle and getting on an airplane. MPD handles personnel actions that include the physical aspects of in- and out-processing, command sponsorship, travel, deployment orders, training, passports, reports of birth, Status of Forces Agreement cards, ID cards and more.

To give an idea of the division’s summer workload, imagine if the Patriot Express -- the military chartered flight bringing Soliders and families to the area -- were a major airline’s average Boeing 767. The number of MPD employees working the summer surge wouldn’t even fill first class. Those 3,800 PCSing soldiers and family members would fill more than 10 of that same, hypothetical aircraft. And that doesn’t even include the pets down in cargo.

“I’ve never been asked to track pets,” said Watson.

One of those first class employees, Leonel Brodhead, a military personnel division supervisor who manages reassignments in both the Baumholder and Kaiserslautern military communities, said the surge knows no season.

"If a Soldier is leaving in August, our workforce did most of the work for that PCS back in March or April. The workflow is three to six months out."

“In my experience, the workflow is constant,” said Brodhead. “If a Soldier is leaving in August, our workforce did most of the work for that PCS back in March or April. The workflow is three to six months out.”

Of note, Brodhead was not only on the front lines of the summer surge, but also in-processing himself during the summer surge.

On top of the usual summer rush, the ongoing pandemic and a historical operation provided challenges that Watson’s division took in strides.

“It was important that we followed strict COVID-19 protocols to keep our workforce healthy and available, especially in the summer with the increase in customer processing,” said Watson. “The MPD used a mix of appointments and walk-in service to limit the number of customers in the facility at any given time to protect against COVID and it worked well.”

Employees whose duties allowed were authorized telework, he added, but the bulk of the MPD customer services, such as ID cards and passports, had to be done in person.

According to Brodhead, Operation Allies Welcome caused some Soldiers and their families to have to redirect their flights or delay their moves back to the states.

“We got through it,” said Brodhead.

Looking back over the summer, Watson noted several areas that excelled:

  • Information sharing amongst different agencies and echelons involved in the process of moving soldiers
  • Teamwork among the human resources professionals to process the surge
  • Implementing virtual in-processing training to alleviate travelling throughout the vast garrison footprint; and
  • Holding the annual Sponsorship Rodeo directly ahead of the surge

Watson looks forward to a new military human resources system, scheduled for a 2022 arrival. Watson said it should improve the timeliness, accuracy and availability of military human resources systems and information, which in-turn should improve the in- and out-processing of Soldiers.