BÖBLINGEN, Germany — Command of U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart changed hands Monday amid budgetary belt tightening at posts across Europe.
“There is no more challenging time to command a garrison,” said Kathleen Marin, region director for Installation Management Command-Europe, during a ceremony at Panzer Kaserne transferring command of the Stuttgart garrison to Col. John P. Stack.
At Army garrisons across Europe, the past two years have been marked by a series of staff reductions as part of a push to find efficiencies. In 2011, Secretary of the Army John McHugh called for a plan that would slash $2.5 billion per year in “redundant and marginally beneficial” programs in IMCOM budgets by the end of fiscal 2014. In Europe, that resulted in garrisons looking for ways to consolidate or eliminate underutilized services.
Marin credited the outgoing commander, Col. Carl D. Bird III, with shepherding the garrison through several cost-saving measures over the past two years. Among those was the decision to shutter the Patch Barracks dining facility. Bird also oversaw policies on green energy initiatives and other technologies that helped reduce garrison utility and sewer costs, Marin said.
The garrison, which provides support services for about 24,000 Americans at five installations in the Stuttgart military community, is home to U.S. European and Africa Commands. The community also hosts special operations and Marine force commands that provide support to the two Combatant Commands.
While he faced some tough choices during his tenure, Bird said the challenges brought his staff together.
“I’m blessed that I have a staff that thinks of efficiencies and how they can do things better,” Bird said. “Closing the Patch dining facility was a very emotional thing. But when you look at it in the bigger scheme of things, that was the right thing to do.”
In place of the dining facility, food vendors will meet the demand, he said.
As for what the future holds and whether more cuts are on the horizon, Bird reserved judgment.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can say whatever hand the garrison gets dealt with, they’ll deal with it and they’ll do it very professionally,” Bird said. “I have no doubt.”
Stack, who previously served as the deputy commander of Special Operations Command (Forward)-Pakistan, has spent most of his career in special operations posts. During a brief speech Monday, he said he was eager to get started in Stuttgart.
“I know there is much work to be done,” Stack said.