Enhancing connections at GACO

Marcus Klein, Ramstein-Miesenbach Union Community deputy mayor, left; U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Randall Reed, 3rd Air Force commander and Kaiserslautern Military Community commander, center; and Ralf Hechler, Ramstein-Miesenbach Union Community mayor, pose for a photo at the German American Community Office, Kaiserslautern, Dec. 2. Reed met with community leaders to pursue dialogue and cooperation on a wide range of community-related matters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Randall Reed, Third Air Force commander, met with German community leaders at the German-American Community Office in Kaiserslautern, Dec. 2.

In an effort to increase engagement opportunities with community leaders, Reed announced that he will maintain regular office hours at the GACO in his role as the Kaiserslautern Military Community commander.  He is the first KMC commander to work regularly at the downtown facility.

“Working in the GACO once per month is part of a larger effort to ensure we remain accessible and keep communication flowing with our host nation partners,” said Reed. “The GACO is a one-of-a-kind initiative between the Air Force, Army and City of Kaiserslautern. It is a physical representation of the strong partnership between U.S. forces in the area and our host nation partners.”

The GACO aims to increase communication and understanding between members of the two nations, though COVID has limited the number of events and engagements where U.S. and German leaders would typically interact.

“Regular engagements are important to building relationships, keeping communication flowing and maintaining trust,” said Reed. “With limits on social gatherings, combined with busy schedules, we have to work harder at ensuring we maintain access to base and local leaders.”

Reed’s first day at the GACO included visits from the Kaiserslautern County commissioner, Ramstein-Miesenbach Union Community’s mayor and deputy mayor, the Kaiserslautern City liaison to the military community, and other officials.  The leaders discussed coronavirus response efforts, vaccination strategies, GACO’s role in the community, the current status of U.S.-host nation relations, and other topics.

Maintaining open lines of communication at the local level reflects the strong friendship U.S. forces have built with the host nation, which supports the critical role the region plays in global security.

“My role as the commander is to ensure our people are taken care of and that they are ready and postured to complete the mission whenever they’re called upon,” said Reed.  “It would be difficult, if not impossible, to do our job without the support from our local communities.

The GACO has been a resource to both Americans and Germans since 2003, assisting the community with linguistic support, information on host nation regulations, administrative issues, and more.

“It is the only facility of its kind in the world and a very important factor for the integration of newly arrived military families into German communities,” said Roberto da Costa, 86th Airlift Wing senior host nation advisor. “It is also important to the local German population as it offers direct contact to the military community and City of Kaiserslautern staff working side-by-side to provide community support.”

The GACO serves the KMC, which hosts more than 50,000 U.S. military members, civilians and their families — making it the largest community of Americans outside the United States.

“These communities are where many of our Airmen live and spend their time when not at work, and it is important for us to cultivate relationships built on trust and respect,” said Reed. “We do that by being good neighbors, respecting local culture and approaching challenges together.”