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STUTTGART, Germany — About 100 people lined the benches at Kelley Barracks’ gym Monday evening for an Africa Command town hall meeting.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians listened to the command’s leaders and heard from audience members during a question-and-answer session.

Attendees voiced concerns over such things as more trash cans on playgrounds, a lack of school books, long lunch lines at schools, vehicle sales, school bus routes, delays in posting mail and even the steepness of a commissary ramp.

No one asked about AFRICOM’s potentially serious budget shortfall. Last week, the House appropriations subcommittee on defense recommended providing $80.6 million in funding for the new command for fiscal 2009. President Bush had requested $389 million. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the 2009 defense bill, but the full report is not available.

Navy Vice Adm. Robert Moeller, AFRICOM’s deputy to the commander for military operations, was the highest-ranking officer to address the gathering.

Stuttgart’s Kelley Barracks is home to AFRICOM headquarters. About 12 to 18 months ago, Kelley Barracks was set for closure and "you could hear the mice crawling around," said Army Col. Richard Pastore, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart commander.

About $110 million in major renovations have already taken place or are under way. In the coming year, about $60 million worth of additional projects are programmed, Pastore said. Housing at Kelley has undergone renovations. A new Subway sandwich shop opened, and a Pizza Hut will open soon. A new 100-space child development center will be built on Kelley, and groundbreaking for a new shoppette will happen this fall, Pastore said.

Pastore has heard word that people in the Stuttgart community are blaming the influx of AFRICOM personnel for long lines and delays.

"Nonsense," he said. "What we have to do is work together as a community, as a team, and we can get all this done. I can assure you. Word has gone out to the entire garrison staff that I better not hear any of that coming out of their mouths. … Feel free if you’ve got people out there saying stuff like that, check ‘em up."


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