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A car travels over tire shredders at Vogelweh’s main gate Monday in Kaiserslautern. At least 10 tires have been damaged by the force-protection device, requiring engineers to make adjustments.
A car travels over tire shredders at Vogelweh’s main gate Monday in Kaiserslautern. At least 10 tires have been damaged by the force-protection device, requiring engineers to make adjustments. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Tire shredders at bases across Europe are designed to give gates extra protection.

But some motorists say the devices do more harm than good.

Greg Pearson, a federal worker in Mannheim, said he knows of several people who have had tires blown out or damaged by similar devices installed at gates in the Mannheim area and Schwetzingen.

“The last thing I want to do is lose a tire,” Pearson said. “That’s scary. … They need to rethink this whole thing.”

The Army doesn’t track the number of tires mistakenly damaged by tire shredders installed at European bases. But many bases have installed the devices, citing the need to prevent attacks.

Officials lowered shredders installed at four Army bases in the Kaiserslautern area last month after workers found the devices weren’t working properly. Some servicemembers said the metal teeth on the strips fastened to the exit lanes ruined their tires in the short period of time the devices were up.

The Army is trying to determine if the problem with the shredders is a manufacturer defect, said Sascha Dixon, a spokesman for Army Garrison Kaiserslautern. Meanwhile, those soldiers with damaged tires want the military to compensate them, but none has received any money, so far.

Some bases have had to constantly readjust the devices to prevent damage to vehicles. Staff Sgt. Johnny James, a desk sergeant for the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron at Vogelweh, said the shredder at the base’s busy gate damaged at least 10 vehicles in just one month. Some of the tires were old; some new. A sign warns drivers to drive over the shredders slowly.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” James said. “But it does happen.”

People can file a claim with their local legal office if they believe the shredders damaged their tires. But the process takes time, and car owners have to prove the shredders did the damage.

That can be difficult if a motorist doesn’t notice the damage right away.

As many as five people have filed claims with the Army’s claims office in Kaiserslautern last month, said Maj. Al Hing, a spokesman for the 21st Theater Support Command.

People who file a police report immediately or photograph evidence of the damage have a better shot at getting compensation, Hing said. But the problem is that some motorists might not notice the damage until they get home, and few people check their tires immediately after passing through a base gate.

“My message would be for anyone in doubt to jump out and take a look,” Hing said.

Despite the problems, James said, the shredders help keep the base safe. A couple of months ago, a German driver who appeared lost went the wrong way through the Vogelweh gate. All four of his vehicle’s tires went flat.

Anybody who thinks they can run the gate “got the point,” James said.

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