Transition centers in Europe cut services
WIESBADEN, Germany — The Army is in the midst of decreasing the hours at some of its transition centers in Europe — offices that provide services to soldiers leaving the military.
In a cost-cutting measure, seven jobs at centers in Europe are being cut, and some feel the move will be to the detriment of troops.
Soldiers visit transition centers to pick up orders, attend pre-separation briefings and to get benefits counseling that helps them transition to civilian life. The Army runs ads on the television and radio about the importance of soldiers visiting a transition center up to a year before they plan to leave the military.
The U.S. Army Europe population has been reduced by almost 20,000 soldiers since 2007, but the transition center contract hadn’t changed until now, according to an Army News release.
Installation Management Command-Europe plans to turn centers in Mannheim and Bamberg into remote facilities, meaning they would be open only a few days a week. Since the announcement last month, however, workers say plans for the Bamberg center are being reviewed.
Walk-ins will no longer be accepted at any of the 11 centers throughout Europe.
"This change makes sense in a fiscal way and a soldier way. It is designed to ease the budget burden as well as ensure soldiers get the service they need," said IMCOM-Europe spokesman Tom Saunders. He declined to discuss how much money would be saved, saying it might "prejudice future contract negotiations."
But not everyone agrees that the changes are soldier-friendly.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas Evon, who is assigned to USAREUR’s Sustainment Operations Division, started the process of retiring in September. Until last month, he said, he had only two scheduled appointments but used the walk-in service 20 to 30 times in Heidelberg.
"If it wasn’t for the guys in Heidelberg, I wouldn’t be retiring," said Evon. "I think it’s kind of a garbage thing to throw on people without putting much thought into it."
Paul Walker, of the Bamberg Transition Center, said many soldiers also used the walk-in service in his office. Of the roughly 20 clients the Bamberg center sees each day, usually only five have appointments, he said.
Most soldiers who walk in have quick questions their units cannot answer, or they want to pick up orders, Walker said.
And setting up remote offices means offices on larger bases will be closed some days.
For instance, starting next week, personnel from the hub center in Heidelberg will now travel to the center in Mannheim to provide services on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to John Leeth, a Heidelberg Transition Center employee. That means the Heidelberg center will be closed those days.
"Service will be greatly degraded. … There is no way they can function. In three months it will be all chaos," said Leeth, who was scheduled to serve his last day at the center this week after four years of service.