BAUMHOLDER, Germany – When customers visit the transportation office at Baumholder to set up a pack-out appointment or attend a transportation briefing, they are greeted by a friendly, receptive staff. But one staffer stands out. He’s friendly, fuzzy, receptive and really cute. His name in Merlin.
Merlin the Spanish rescue dog is the transportation office’s unofficial mascot. He comes to work with his human almost every day, perches himself on a special chair fit for a prince, wags his tail perpetually and offers greetings to everyone who visits. His human is the local national chief of transportation, and she’s been working there almost 44 years.
“I use to work for a couple of months at the Army depot in Nahbollenbach, Germany, which has been closed for a long time,” said Iris Nickel. “And then I went to transportation at Baumholder, and I’ve been here ever since. That was May 1, 1980.”
“When I first started working in transportation, I could’ve been a Soldier’s girlfriend, then his mother and now his granny,” said the 63-year-old local national Army employee.
“We take care of the Soldiers who are leaving and arriving. When they need to ship their household goods and unaccompanied baggage or want to ship a vehicle, we do all the transportation counseling,” Nickel said. “We also do the move.mil (Defense Personal Property Program) part, and when it is pack-out day, one of our quality control representatives drives out to the home and helps take care of everything.”
“We are also customs border clearing agents making sure everything is clean and nothing prohibited goes to the United States,” she added.
The Baumholder transportation office is assigned to Logistics Readiness Center Rheinland-Pfalz, 405th Army Field Support Brigade, and is located at Hospital Kaserne. The seven counselors and seven quality control inspectors Nickel supervises support all the Soldiers, Army civilians and Families in the Baumholder military community, and for the past two years they also support Soldiers stationed in Sinai, Egypt, and Beersheba, Israel, as well as Jordan.
“Here at transportation, we are a big family. We are really counting on each other,” said Nickel, who has a 37-year-old German-American daughter living and working in Baumholder.
“I always say I have the best team. They are really good counselors, and we all work really well together – Merlin too. Without him and my team I couldn’t do it,” said Nickel.
Merlin and Nickel are planning the next chapter of their lives, now. They hope to sell their family home in Fischbach, Germany, where Nickel grew up and find a nice apartment on the ground floor in Baumholder fit for a 12-year-old friendly, fuzzy prince and his soon-to-be-retired human.
“I for sure want to make my 45 years, which I will have next year in June. That’s what I would like to do. That’s my goal,” Nickel said. “I will miss it because Merlin and I really like here. We really like our work family.”
“A half an hour ago I was showing our old office appointment book to someone. In this book we would annotate all the pickups and deliveries and what we are responsible for each day,” Nickel said. “For example, in 2012 we moved 4,000 Soldiers in a very short amount of time. I just looked at those pages in the book, and we were supporting about a hundred pickups a day.”
The transportation expert and traffic manager said from the first day she started working until now she’s always enjoyed working in transportation.
“In school I really liked geography. I really enjoyed learning about different places and different countries. I also enjoy going to other countries,” said Nickel, who has visited New York City, Baltimore and Chicago, for example.
“Believe it or not, I use to know all the counties in the United States,” she said. “At that time we didn’t have computers – only typewriters and books – so it was a challenge and a game to memorize all the counties near the Army posts. We’d challenge each other and say ‘what county is Fort Bliss or what county is San Antonio?’ That was fun.”
Books and typewriters long gone, now it’s computers, digital spreadsheets and the Defense Personal Property Program online for Nickel and her transportation team. But it’s still a lot of fun, she said.
“The main thing is talking to the Soldiers, helping them with their transportation needs and giving them good advice. That’s what I like to do,” she said.
“Ms. Nickel is hardworking, caring, a good team member and leader, and good at taking care of Soldiers and Army Families,” said Eric Helmer, the Baumholder installation transportation officer, LRC Rheinland-Pfalz. “She’s our number one subject matter expert.”
Helmer said he and the transportation team at Baumholder will miss working with her when she retires. And they’ll miss friendly, fuzzy, receptive and really cute Merlin, too.
Everyone will miss Merlin.
The Baumholder transportation office handles all the inbound and outbound household goods shipments as well as quality control and customs. They are responsible for counseling and assisting community members with their household goods, unaccompanied baggage, non-temporary storage and personally owned vehicles. They also ensure Baumholder military community members are well informed and briefed on their entitlements, whether that’s their POVs, storage or shipments – anything that pertains to personal property and transportation.
LRC Rheinland-Pfalz is one of seven LRCs under the command and control of the 405th AFSB. LRCs execute installation logistics support and services to include supply, maintenance, transportation and food service management as well as clothing issue facility operations, hazardous material management, personal property and household goods, passenger travel, property book operations, and non-tactical vehicle and garrison equipment management. When it comes to providing day-to-day installation services, LRC Rheinland-Pfalz directs, manages and coordinates a variety of operations and activities in support of U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz
LRC Rheinland-Pfalz reports to the 405th AFSB, which is assigned to U.S. Army Sustainment Command and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging U.S. Army Materiel Command’s materiel enterprise to support joint forces. For more information on the 405th AFSB, visit the official website and the official Facebook site.