Transparency, building German-American partnerships and the impact of transformation were topics during a special media engagement March 11.
About 20 members of the host nation media — including print, radio and television journalists — had the opportunity to become better informed about the U.S. military community in Wiesbaden and ongoing efforts to transform its facilities to serve the U.S. Army Europe Headquarters as completion nears of the move of various support elements from Heidelberg, Mannheim and Darmstadt to Wiesbaden.
“There’s a lot of speculation in the German media; some of it is correct and some of it’s not so correct,” said Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, adding that the media day was an opportunity to clear up any misconceptions. “Ultimately, that’s what good neighbors do.”
Describing the massive transformation efforts which have greatly altered the configuration of the U.S. military in Wiesbaden — construction of a new Army lodge and entertainment center in 2011 and 2010 respectively, completion of the 326-unit Newman Village housing area and the Gen. John Shalikashvili Mission Command Center in 2012, near completion of the Gray Center (Information Processing Center) and ongoing work on the new Consolidated Intelligence Center, new parking garages on Clay Kaserne and the start of construction on new Access Control Points at Hainerberg Housing and Clay Kaserne — Carstens said this wouldn’t have been possible without the outstanding support from the host nation. “Without this cooperation — without this partnership with the state of Hessen and city of Wiesbaden — this transformation wouldn’t have been possible.
“We are now just under 20,000 community members,” Carstens said, explaining that that includes more than 3,000 Soldiers, nearly 4,000 civilians, 1,200 local national civilians, slightly more than 10,000 U.S. family members and 1,000 retirees.
Among the many partnerships including regular information visits to the garrison by host nation officials, student exchanges, joint military training opportunities and other communal events, Carstens said he is especially proud of efforts taken to conserve resources and protect the environment.
“I’m most proud of our partnerships that help the environment,” Carstens said, pointing to the Oekoprofit program as one of the many ways in which the garrison works directly with the city of Wiesbaden and local agencies and organizations to find ways to save energy and other valuable resources. The garrison has been recognized annually by the city for its contributions and cooperation in Oekoprofit.
Other efforts have included building state-of-the-art new structures incorporating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, working with ESWE to promote greater use of public transportation and enhancing recycling efforts to reduce waste throughout the command. Encouraging car pooling, making Clay Kaserne a mostly walking post and efforts to better define the bicycle routes connecting U.S. installations are all aimed at reducing the number of vehicles on the roads, traffic congestion and pollution.
Carstens once again thanked local realtors, property and business owners and members of the Wiesbaden Chamber of Commerce for their help in reducing communication barriers and making more services available to Americans in Wiesbaden. “I’m proud of our partnerships to help our families find homes, but also to get the 20,000 members of our military community into Wiesbaden to shop and purchase services.”
He also praised the outstanding support of local first responders in helping secure and safeguard Americans residing in and around Wiesbaden. “This is a relationship that we don’t take for granted,” he said.
During the roundtable session at the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center and later during a tour of Clay Kaserne, media representatives asked questions ranging from why Wiesbaden was chosen as the new home of USAREUR Headquarters to how many German firms were involved in transformation construction projects.
Carstens explained that with fewer installations around the command in Europe and reduced troop levels it only makes sense to consolidate, divest and reduce where possible to cut costs and travel time for military men and women. He also addressed communication forums such as the Noise Abatement Commission which exist to address concerns about aircraft noise and other issues from the local citizenry.
One of the highlights of the media day was the announcement of an upcoming German-American Fest to be held June 28 to July 4 in Hainerberg Housing.