By Ms. Susan Huseman (IMCOM)January 25, 2010
STUTTGART, German -- Twenty years ago, Robinson Barracks was the crown jewel of what was dubbed the Greater Stuttgart Military Community - 17 caserns dotted across an area the size of Rhode Island, with more than 32,000 personnel.
Back then, 4,000 Soldiers and civilians worked on Robinson Barracks. More than 675 families lived there.
And, when Americans in Germany wanted to go shopping, they headed to RB's PX, the largest in Europe.
That was then.
Over time, a chunk of RB's real estate was returned to the Germans, and the installation dwindled down to a quiet bedroom community. But in the past two and one-half years, thanks to an influx of U.S. Africa Command personnel, the community is coming alive again.
"The garrison and the [combatant commands], EUCOM and AFRICOM, have worked very hard together to revitalize what was just two years ago 'Sleepy Hollow,'" said Col. Richard M. Pastore, the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart commander, at his first-ever Robinson Barracks town hall meeting Jan. 13.
More than $100 million has been spent on family housing renovations, which include amenities such as wall-to-wall carpeting, master bedroom walk-in closets and laundry facilities in each apartment.
There are 100 housing units now under renovation, with an additional $4.6 million earmarked for future renovations. "Every stairwell unit has been or will be renovated," Pastore said.
Today, 280 families call Robinson Barracks home. Over the next 18 months, the population is projected to increase to 470 families.
RB residents have their own fitness center, elementary and middle school, library, post office, mail room, beauty shop, Child and Youth Services School Age Services and a hybrid "CX," a combined commissary and post exchange.
Recent additions include a barber shop, a Community Bank branch office, and a doner kebab and rotisserie chicken stand inside the CX.
To support RB's growing population, the USAG Stuttgart Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation just opened a community club with a restaurant and lounge.
"We want the club to be a place where people who live here can gather to watch sports, have fun, eat a meal [and] watch a movie," said Pastore. With that in mind, the facility features a small theater, large screen TVs and meeting area. A coffee bar is set to open soon.
The garrison will spend $9 million over the next two years on infrastructure repairs: replacing playground equipment, installing air conditioning in the SAS building and repairing the sidewalks and roads.
The Robinson Barracks chapel will also undergo renovations.
"With the growth of the community, our religious support activities have grown exponentially. We've tried to keep pace with it," Pastore said. "We have a tremendous amount of programs and activities for RB residents."
Robinson Barracks is now fully enclosed by fencing. To make the surrounding German neighborhood, shops and buses more accessible by foot, the garrison is looking to install enhanced security pedestrian gates at several locations. "It's going to happen as quickly as we can make it happen," Pastore said.
RB residents enjoy the best of both worlds: the convenience and security of living in a military community and the intimacy of a German neighborhood, according to Andrea Aitken. "We really feel like we're living in Germany," said Aitken, a two-year RB resident.
Aitken is especially excited about what the new club brings to the community. "People are having promotion parties, going for cake on Sunday, enjoying brunch, grabbing dinner on a weeknight or stopping in for a beer," she said.
She encourages others in the Stuttgart military community to visit the club. "Come out for Sunday brunch. The food is great and the atmosphere is nice.
"It is worth the drive," she added.