GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- It was a much anticipated event as approximately 500 American and German dignitaries, including Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, commanding general, U.S. Army Europe, and Maj. Gen. James Boozer, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Europe, Bavarian State Minister Thomas Kreuzer and local mayors, Soldiers and community members gathered to welcome U.S Army Garrison Grafenwoehr's incoming commander, Col. James Saenz, here, Jan. 17.

Saenz replaced Kathy Aydt, who resumed her role as deputy garrison commander after serving as the garrison commander since November 2011.

With nearly 40,000 Soldiers, civilian and family members within the USAG Grafenwoehr footprint, which also includes garrisons in Hohenfels and Garmisch, Saenz stepped into an influential role.

"There is no more challenging time than now to lead an Army garrison, especially in Europe," Installation Management Command-Europe Director Kathleen Marin said to Saenz. "I'll expect you to ask the right questions of your team and of yourself, to develop a sustainable path to success, both now and well into the future, while deepening trust within the community and with our partners."

During his speech Saenz expressed his desire to build on the successes of USAG Grafenwoehr, which he referred to as one of the Army's premier enterprises.

"The dedicated Soldiers and U.S. and German civilian employees of the garrisons at Grafenwoehr, Vilseck, Hohenfels and Garmisch will continue to provide exceptional installation capabilities and services in support of United States Army Europe," he said. "In doing so, the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr will help ensure a strong Army for our nation and the best quality of life for our Soldiers, civilians and families."

"Of course, to achieve these goals, we will continue to rely on the excellent support, partnership and friendship of our German hosts," added Saenz.

Saenz comes to Grafenwoehr from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served as the director of the Commander's Strategic Initiatives Group for U.S. Army Special Operations. His military career is long and impressive with more than 25 years of service since his graduation from West Point in 1987.

His operational experience includes Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm; numerous counter-narcotics missions in South and Central America; several disaster relief efforts in Central America; Operation Enduring Freedom; and multiple global war on terrorism activities at home and abroad.

Additionally, Saenz holds two master's degrees, speaks Spanish, and is an accomplished martial artist.
Saenz's broad international experience, to include serving in Germany, will compliment the transition into his current position, while adjusting to the unique traditions here in Bavaria. He is joined in Germany by his wife, Leslie, and two sons, Matthew and Adams.

"My family and I are looking forward to living in Bavaria and being a part of this garrison," said Saenz.

As the ceremony ended, U.S. Army Europe Band's Brass Quintet played Richard Roblee's "Blues for Brass" providing a soulful backdrop as guests mingled and personally welcomed the new commander to the Grafenwoehr community.