ACS program helps ease transition for newcomers, departing families

By Karl WeiselMarch 4, 2024

Lending Closet
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption –
Geraldine "Gigi" Wilson and Cristy Ayers sort through household items available for free borrowing in the Army Community Service Lending Closet. (Photo Credit: Karl Weisel)
German Class
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Students engage during the Relocation Readiness Program's free German language course. (Photo Credit: Karl Weisel) VIEW ORIGINAL
Walking Tour
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Irmgard Goebel leads a walking tour of Wiesbaden as part of Newcomers Orientation. (Photo Credit: Karl Weisel) VIEW ORIGINAL
Spouse Orientation
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Participants make valuable connections and pick up garrison information during a Spouse Orientation. (Photo Credit: Karl Weisel) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany - First impressions can make or break transitioning to a new duty station.

Thanks to the robust services provided by Army Community Service's Relocation Readiness Program, newcomers are made to feel welcome at their "home away from home" in Wiesbaden.

"My clients are the reason for my existence," said Relocation Readiness Manager Geraldine Wilson -- or "Gigi" as she is known to most people.

"Relocation Readiness is all about the term movement," she said, explaining that she and her colleagues do their best to provide a variety of services, information and support aimed at easing the transition experience for both newly arriving families and those moving on to new assignments. "Relocation Readiness is not just incoming, it's also outgoing."

German and English as a Foreign Language classes, Host Nation and Spouse Orientations, Spouse Sponsorship, online resources, walking tours, cultural briefings, foreign born spouse get-togethers and more are all intended to make people feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

"As long as you have an ID card, we're here to help you," said Wilson. "We're also constantly looking for volunteers."

"We've always been the gatekeeper of information," she said, adding that "introducing newcomers to a new culture," showing them different places to dine, shop and explore are all part of that effort.

"We try to reach out to the units to educate them during briefings about what we can do for them. ... We want all spouses who are here to use our services," Wilson said. "We want people to get away from the mindset that Relocation Readiness is only for Soldiers -- it's for everyone. ... Everything that we offer here is free."

"It's very gratifying and gives me joy," said Irmgard Goebel, a long-time cultural ambassador who has consistently led orientation classes and guided walking tours to local sites such as Ruedesheim, Frankfurt, the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz and various other well-known and lesser-known local destinations.

Goebel said her intention is to make learning about the local German culture and surroundings "not only fun, but also educational."

"I started doing this 21 years ago at the Newcomers Information Center in the former American Arms Hotel in Wiesbaden," Goebel said, leading the Host Nation Orientation every Monday and a different cultural walking tour once a month.

"I feel I can make a difference," she added. "My main goal is to put them at ease -- to learn to recognize cultural differences and how to use the local public transportation system."

Goebel added that it's fulfilling when people come up to her later thanking her for the information and insight. "Sometimes they applaud after a tour," she said.

Even before arriving in U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, transitioning service members and civilians are encouraged to connect with the various resources available online. "The garrison website should be your first stop," Wilson said, adding that visiting is a good starting point for a quick look at host nation and garrison resources.

Once on the ground, a visit to Army Community Service in Building 7790 in Hainerberg Housing will speed up the connection process, she said. "We can connect them to agencies around the community," Wilson explained. "We can help them identify what they need, connect them to spouse sponsors and link them to school information if needed."

"Part of my project is to revitalize our programming," she said, explaining that through the use of QR codes and other digital resources, Relocation Readiness is constantly evolving to serve those in need.

The ever-popular free German language classes offered by Relocation Readiness have consistently proven to be a major attraction, said Wilson, adding that because class size is limited, she highly encouraged participants to see the several-week-long program through to the end. "Our challenge is, some people aren't committed -- they attend for two weeks and then drop out -- which blocks class spaces that could have been used by someone else."

"We also offer free child care during our monthly Spouse Orientations. We work directly with Child and Youth Services for the child care piece -- and it's free," she said, adding that those wanting to arrange for the care should contact ACS at least a week in advance.

For more information about the program and upcoming walking tours and orientations, visit or call ACS at civ (0611) 143-548-9201.