By Christine June, U.S. Army Garrison KaiserslauternJune 10, 2008
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - Army Europe history, 30,000 boxes worth, has found a new home here after traveling almost 50 miles from its former site at Bensheim, Germany.
As the largest such facility located outside of the United States, the Army in Europe Records Holding Area keeps track of Department of Army forms as far back as the 1980s. These hardcopy forms - generated for and signed by Soldiers and civilians assigned in Europe - include legal, contracting, and individual permanent change-of-station, separation, dental and downrange records.
"It's history. It's litigation. It's protection for the Army and individuals," said Alfred Lang, director of Installation Management Command-Europe Human Resources, during a ceremony June 6 at the RHA's new location on Panzer Kaserne.
Beside the hardcopy storage, these records are also cataloged in six main databases and six sub-databases, said Thomasz Proch, a RHA management technician, who is responsible for inputting and tracking information.
"We have the technology and process in place to go digital," said Lorna Martin Gross, IMCOM-Europe records manager, adding that she visualizes RHA in the future "as a (single) room with just a computer in it."
However, "As long as hard copies are being generated," Gross said, "we will need to keep them, especially for litigation where signatures are very important."
Lang agreed: "This (hardcopy storage) will never go away."
The RHA was first located in Maison Fort, France, during World War II. It was there that separation records for Clark Gable, Elvis Presley and Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy were stored. After the deactivation of Army units from France in 1967, it was moved to Bremerhaven, Germany, and then Bensheim, which hosted RHA from 1992 until now.
Renovating the existing building on Panzer Kaserne to meet federal requirements took four months, with a price tag of about $350,000, said Kent Carson, director of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Public Works. He added that RHA was one of about 30 ongoing transformation projects happening here.
The closure of USAG Darmstadt in September was one reason for the move, but the major driving force, said Lang, was the building itself. In Bensheim, RHA occupied a former Mercedes truck plant, with several separate rooms. The structure at Kaiserslautern is a single 40,000-squarefoot building, which allows for easier forklift usage, said Andreas Schork, a RHA management technician who drives one of the vehicles eight hours daily.
Schork, Proch and Andreas KAfA1/4hn are responsible for collecting, reviewing, cataloging, storing, preserving and acting as shipping agents of official records. They process such files based on the Army Records Information Management System disposition instructions. The Privacy Act of 1974 also plays heavily in the storing and processing of records.
All three men - more than half of the current staff - agreed to relocate to the new location.
"We are really glad about that; it will guarantee that we will continue the quality of service (as provided before)," said Lang.
The RHA also stores records for Department of Defense Education Activity, Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Criminal Investigation Division.