Soldiers, families from 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division check out what Grafenwöhr has to offer
January 14, 2008
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Three days after receiving word that they will have to pick up and move, about 350 soldiers and family members of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, on Saturday toured the community they will next call home.
The daylong trip, organized at the behest of V Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, was intended to give families a firsthand look at what that new home has to offer.
Grafenwöhr, a U.S. Army post about 100 miles from the brigade’s Schweinfurt home, has in recent years undergone more than $1 billion in improvements to become perhaps the most well- appointed Army facility in Europe.
But moving there, officials acknowledge, could cause some headaches for soldiers and families that have established themselves in Schweinfurt.
“People, let’s be frank, they are comfortable with where they are, and change isn’t something that comes naturally,” Maj. Eric Timmerman, the brigade’s deputy commander, said Saturday.
But it might not be hard to convince families that the move is a good thing. The facilities at Grafenwöhr — both for military training and for day-to-day life — are, almost without exception, bigger, newer and more conveniently located than those available in Schweinfurt.
“I haven’t seen anything so far that I didn’t like,” Thomas Walter, a member of 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, said more than halfway through a community tour organized for families.
Single soldiers looked at on-post facilities, such as the newly finished barracks, company operations areas and the $19 million gym. Married soldiers and their families, such as Walter and his wife, Agnes, viewed on-post housing; nearby towns where they might choose to live, shop or visit; and various on-base services, such as medical and dental clinics and day care.
“I really like the fact that it’s all one kaserne,” Walter said, “as opposed to Schweinfurt.”
There, everything is spread out and the commissary, gas station, and post exchange are on three posts.
But that wasn’t his main concern. All the families interviewed during the tour had the same worry.
“I’m concerned about where we’re going to live because we are established and have a very nice place to live [in Schweinfurt],” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Jackson, another 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment soldier.
The garrison anticipated that worry and allowed families to explore an on-post stairwell housing unit and the off-post Netza- berg housing area, a development of three-and four-bedroom duplexes just outside the main post.
“We’ve got all kinds of homes here: on-post, build-to-lease and private rental,” said Col. Brian Boyle, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr.
Jackson and his wife both thought Netzaberg, which has 830 units and the atmosphere of a cozy suburban development, was nice, and thought they could live there comfortably.
“It’s just kind of small,” said Michelle Jackson, who said their off-post house in Schweinfurt, which they share with their two children, is bigger.
But not all families live in bigger homes in Schweinfurt, and Renee L’Elie seemed impressed with the kitchen in the on-post stairwell unit, which has an American- style oven.
“It’s a real oven,” L’Elie told her children. “You can bake two sheets of cookies at once, not just one.”
The Walters, who live off post near Schweinfurt, hope for an on-post home, but Boyle acknowledged that most families moving to the area will have to live off post.
Weiden, the nearest large city, is roughly 20 minutes from post, Boyle said, but closer off-base rentals are available in smaller towns around post as well.
The tour soothed the irritation 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment soldier Stephen Hodgson felt when the move was announced Thursday.
“We just got moved into our house and then they told us the same day we were moving out,” Hodgson said. He was upset but “I’m excited now that I’ve seen it,” he said of Grafenwöhr.
As he finished a tour of Netzaberg with his wife and daughter, he said, “I don’t know about how it’s going to be like right next to the ranges, but the fact that’s it’s right outside of town is cool.”
He also commented on the newly finished on-base shopping center.
“It’s like a Wal-Mart,” Hodgson said, comparing it favorably with the smaller facilities in Schweinfurt.