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David Laxa and Tony Bonilla, reception technicians with the Frankfurt Gateway Reception Center, assist Soldiers and families upon their arrival at the Frankfurt Airport in 2010.

David Laxa and Tony Bonilla, reception technicians with the Frankfurt Gateway Reception Center, assist Soldiers and families upon their arrival at the Frankfurt Airport in 2010. (U.S. Army)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Once the hub for all soldiers and family members entering Germany, the Army’s reception center at Frankfurt Airport will close Sept. 30, nearly eight months after the Army began flying most of its personnel into Ramstein Air Base on flights contracted by the military.

The center’s closure, according to U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman Lynn Davis, will result in an annual cost savings of roughly $5.8 million.

“That was the latest cost-benefit analysis that they conducted,” she said, adding that the savings from shutting down the center’s working space, bus services, parking and lodging facilities might be even higher.

The center and its predecessors have operated almost exclusively out of Frankfurt since the mid-1950s, according to Maj. Patrick Niestzche, a human resources officer with the Army’s 21st Theater Sustainment Command, which operates the gateway. Incoming soldiers and family members processed through Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt, until the base shut down in 2005. The reception center then moved to an Army base in nearby Hanau. As that community closed down in 2008, a reception center was established in Frankfurt Airport.

Until earlier this year, that was the only gateway for Army personnel and family members arriving in Germany on permanent orders. In fiscal 2011, the center processed more than 21,000 soldiers and family members into the country, according to Davis.

But the center’s role has diminished significantly since February, when chartered flights between the U.S. and Ramstein became the preferred method for transporting troops and family members in and out of Germany, a change prompted by the March 2011 murder of two U.S. airmen by an Islamic extremist on a military bus outside a Frankfurt terminal.

While some soldiers will continue to transit the Frankfurt Airport, responsibility for handling their arrivals will fall on their new units, according to Army officials. The USO in Hall C of Frankfurt’s Terminal 2, which has phones and computers for personnel to contact their new units, will continue to operate.

Between Feb. 7, when the change went into effect, and Sept. 1, a total of 1,087 soldiers and family members arrived through Frankfurt, according to Maj. Gregory Jones, a spokesman for the 21st TSC. Another 6,744 soldiers and dependents flew on contract flights into Ramstein, he said.

“The obvious impact is there will no longer be a soldier presence at the Frankfurt airport, other than individual sponsors,” Niestzche said in a press release from the 21st TSC.

millhamm@estripes.osd.milTwitter: @mattmillham

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