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Col. Karen Fleming, Army and Air Force Exchange Service logistics deputy director, speaks during the Europe distribution center ribbon-cutting ceremony at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

Col. Karen Fleming, Army and Air Force Exchange Service logistics deputy director, speaks during the Europe distribution center ribbon-cutting ceremony at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)

Col. Karen Fleming, Army and Air Force Exchange Service logistics deputy director, speaks during the Europe distribution center ribbon-cutting ceremony at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

Col. Karen Fleming, Army and Air Force Exchange Service logistics deputy director, speaks during the Europe distribution center ribbon-cutting ceremony at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)

Guests listen to opening remarks by Col. Karen Fleming, Army and Air Force Exchange Service logistics deputy director, during the Europe distribution center grand opening at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

Guests listen to opening remarks by Col. Karen Fleming, Army and Air Force Exchange Service logistics deputy director, during the Europe distribution center grand opening at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)

Col. Keith Igyarto, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz commander, speaks during the Army and Air Force Exchange Service distribution center ribbon-cutting ceremony at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

Col. Keith Igyarto, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz commander, speaks during the Army and Air Force Exchange Service distribution center ribbon-cutting ceremony at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)

Army and Air Force Exchange Service personnel cut the ribbon for the distribution center at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The renovated warehouses in Germersheim are closer to AAFES customers in Europe and downrange than the center's previous location.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service personnel cut the ribbon for the distribution center at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The renovated warehouses in Germersheim are closer to AAFES customers in Europe and downrange than the center's previous location. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)

Jason Rakestraw, Europe Regional Distribution Center manager, gives a tour of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service facility during the grand opening at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The distribution center in Germersheim has 420,000 square feet of warehouse space.

Jason Rakestraw, Europe Regional Distribution Center manager, gives a tour of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service facility during the grand opening at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. The distribution center in Germersheim has 420,000 square feet of warehouse space. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)

A forklift operator moves a pallet at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service distribution center at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

A forklift operator moves a pallet at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service distribution center at Germersheim Army Depot, Germany, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (Michael B. Keller/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. ARMY DEPOT GEMERSHEIM, Germany — The green warehouses here hold vital supplies that many U.S. military members and their families might have a hard time foregoing during an assignment in Europe: beer, chips and soda from America and many other essentials.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service on Wednesday marked the opening of its new Europe distribution center, a project 10 years in the making to relocate its stocks about 100 miles down the road from Giessen.

AAFES officials say the move brings its products closer to its customers in Europe and downrange, which will translate into better service and transportation cost savings.

“This is a celebration of all the hard work that has gone into moving us from Giessen to Germersheim,” said Col. Karen Fleming, AAFES deputy logistics director. “This will allow us to provide better support to our customers.”

AAFES’ move to Germersheim was also part of the European Infrastructure Consolidation, a sweeping reorganization of U.S. forces on the Continent, details of which were announced two years ago.

Under the plan, Giessen was among more than a dozen sites across Europe slated for closure. Since the 1960s, AAFES had shipped products from its distribution center at Giessen to exchanges across Europe and the Middle East.

In the move, AAFES gained a smaller footprint — warehouse space at Giessen was about 1.2 million square feet, compared with 420,000 square feet at Gemersheim.

AAFES still carries the same assortment of stock, just fewer items, which it plans to offset with smaller, frequent shipments to exchanges across Europe and downrange, officials said.

AAFES moved into renovated warehouses at Germersheim formerly used by the Defense Logistics Agency, which continues to operate a distribution center from another warehouse at Germersheim, as does the Defense Commissary Agency.

Stock is already starting to fill up in the warehouses, everything from appliances and mattresses to cases of American beer and Hunt Brothers’ cardboard pizza boxes.

And then there are the real necessities: The distribution center is supplying soap, razors and other hygiene items, as well as sodas and snacks “and all the other products that bring a taste of home to austere locations,” said Col. Keith Igyarto, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz.

“This is now the hub for supplying AAFES’ newest operations in areas we are sending our troops more frequently” in support of NATO’s collective security, he said, citing such eastern European countries as Estonia, Lativa, Lithunia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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