Kaiserslautern garrison welcomes new commander

Story and photo by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

Lt. Col. Lars Zetterstrom grabbed hold of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s guidon June 3, accepting responsibility to provide support and services to thousands of U.S. Soldiers, civilians and family members in the Kaiserslautern area.

Colonel Zetterstrom took command of the garrison during a ceremony held at Armtstrong’s Club on Vogelweh Housing Area. Dozens of U.S. and German military officials and civilians attended the event. Colonel Zetterstrom is looking forward to his new job, he said.

“I have been thoroughly impressed with the quality and professionalism of the garrison staff,” he said. “I look forward to working with the outstanding Soldiers and civilians of the garrison headquarters.”

The highlight of the ceremony was the traditional passing of the unit colors. Throughout history, the guidon has showed the commander is present and it served as a rally point for troops on the battlefield. Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment served as color bearers and color guards.

During the ceremony, both incoming and outgoing commanders offered remarks.
Lt. Col. Kevin Hutchison, who now heads to Fort Sill, Okla., for his next assignment, took time to thank garrison staff and other leaders in the KMC. He also spoke in German to thank local officials for supporting the command. His time in command will not be forgotten, he said.

Commanding a garrison in Kaiserslautern in unique, due to its collocation with a large U.S. Air Force contingent, said Col. William Butcher, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg. The Kaiserslautern garrison supports dozens of tenant units, including the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Stars and Stripes, and the 357th Air and Missile Defense Detachment.

Under Colonel Hutchison, the garrison supported the deployment of 31 units from the area and the reintegration of more than 4,000 Soldiers, civilians and family members following deployments, Colonel Butcher said. 

Colonel Hutchison led the garrison as the Army acquired Sembach Kaserne from the Air Force and began preparing the installation for new Army units moving from Mannheim and Heidelberg. That included developing relationships with key German leaders in the Sembach area. During his command, the garrison underwent countless renovations and construction projects to support Kaiserslautern’s growing military community — most recently opening new child care centers at Sembach and Landstuhl.

For officers, a command is an honor and privilege that is often tough, demanding and arduous, Colonel Butcher said.

“It’s fitting that we gather together on occasions like this one and recognize contributions, bid farewell and welcome new blood,” he said.

Colonel Zetterstrom, an Army engineer and West Point graduate from Clifton Park, N.Y., most recently served a tour in southern Afghanistan. Previously, he served as deputy commander with the Buffalo, N.Y., district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For Colonel Zetterstrom, the command position returns him and his family to Germany, where he began his Army career as a platoon leader with the Bamberg-based 82nd Engineer Battalion. Other assignments include both staff and command positions with the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. During his career, Colonel Zetterstrom has deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

He and his wife Erin, also a New Yorker, have three children. He holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Missouri.
“He is no stranger to the business of military construction, which will serve the command well considering the breadth of construction and renovation which will occur in the coming years,” Colonel Butcher said.

Dutch officers who served with Colonel Zetterstrom in Afghanistan also attended the ceremony, as did many local German officials.

“I look forward to continuing and building the critical relationships with our German and European friends and allies,” Colonel Zetterstrom said.