STUTTGART, Germany — The Stuttgart area did not make the final cut for this year’s Army Community of Excellence award.

But it was good to get in the game.

“Now we have a concerted effort,” said Ed McCargo, management analyst for the 6th Area Support Group. “We can see where we need to focus our resources to get better.”

To be considered for the award, a community had to undergo a self-assessment called the Army Performance Improvement Criteria, or APIC. This was the first year that all communities in Europe were required to do it.

It forces each group within a community, such as housing or outdoor recreation, to come up with a plan to improve.

“It was our first year for using APIC,” McCargo said. “The 6th ASG’s goal is to compete in the next [community of excellence contest]. Our goal is to learn how to get better.”

McCargo said that Stuttgart wants to become the first choice of its “customers” when they look for services.

“If someone moves into the 6th ASG, we want them to use our housing office instead of using word of mouth or rental sheets to find a place,” McCargo said. “For our fitness centers, we want them to be their exercise place of choice because it has the best equipment and facility.

“We did a one-day training for everyone in the 6th ASG so they were focused on what we call ‘first choice.’ We plan to do that every year, so as our work force turns over, everyone coming in will understand what we mean by ‘first choice.’”

The APIC process forces communities to come up with long-term plans instead of quick fixes, according to Glynis Walker, program manager for Installation Management Agency-Europe. Their progress should show up in the community of excellence reviews.

“We’re looking for incremental improvements across all seven [judgment] categories,” said Walker, referring to leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; human resource focus; process management; and results.

This year’s six community of excellence finalists are the 222nd Base Support Battalion in Baumholder, 409th BSB in Vilseck, 415th BSB in Kaiserslautern, 280th BSB in Schweinfurt, 414th BSB in Hanau and 417th BSB in Kitzingen.

The winner will receive a $2 million prize. Second place is good for $1 million and third is worth $750,000.

The winner is to be announced in late September. Site visits by the judges, who are stateside contractors specializing in organizational improvement, are wrapping up this week.

Competing is nothing new for Kitzingen, nor is winning.

The 417th BSB won the Europe competition in 2003, when the prize was $1 million, and the Army-wide contest in 2001.

Even for a base support battalion that covers a wide swath such as Kitzingen, Würzburg and Giebelstadt, $1 million makes a big difference, according to Keith Colbert, director of community activities. The 417th used some of its prize money, for example, to renovate its fitness centers and purchase air conditioners.

“In actual dollars, we get to keep about 10 percent of what we bring in [such as activity fees, etc.] to reinvest,” Colbert said. “That’s only about a dime on the dollar, so to get $1 million was like having $10 million in business go through our doors.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now