In 1974, the Vietnam war was officially winding down, the Cold War was heating up, and Hans-Juergen Becker was looking for something fulfilling to occupy his time before and after his mandatory German military conscription as a Signal soldier. The Miesau Ammunition Depot was calling. It is February 1974: Barbara Streisand, John Denver, Steve Miller Band and Elton John ruled the radio, Walter Cronkite was your news source, and the internet was a vision only in a science fiction novel. And it’s the first time Juergen arrives at the Depot in a sea of solid olive drab uniforms. The Depot was near its peak of activity with nearly 1500 ammo and support workers, compared to its current state with 110.
Becker said “my very first task when hired was not very glamourous…. I had to move a pile of wood from point A to point B by hand, moving it out of the rain into a covered structure to protect it from mold. Today, we have an incredible fleet of forklifts to handle such routine duties.”
Juergen remembers those days, and has seen changes he could never have imagined during his 48 years of service to the US Army. After a lifetime spent at the Miesau Ammo Depot, culminating with his service as the Deputy Director for his final 14 years, his departure will be bittersweet. “I’ll greatly miss the sense of contribution I have felt these many years, helping NATO and USAREUR maintain the longest peace that Europe has known in its history. I’ll especially miss my Miesau colleagues and working with Soldiers.”
There have been fewer than 3 workers that have achieved 48 or more years of service exclusively at ACE since its inception in 1949. He worked his way through the ranks, from initial entry as a supply clerk, to inventory accountability, supervisory roles, and eventually the Deputy. And he did so at the highest levels of competence, earning the USARUER Disabled Employee of the year in 2004.
“When I was considering Miesau, many of my friends were at Bosch and other manufacturers, but after just a short time in Miesau before I fulfilled my Military commitment, I knew ammunition was the field I wanted to pursue. No matter what your task at the Depot, you know that you have a direct effect on one of the most important commodities in the Army, and unit training and readiness is achieved thanks to ammo operations everywhere.”
Mr. Becker has helped Miesau support every major military operation, from Desert Storm, to Bosnia, to Afghanistan to Iraq. Bosnia being one of the toughest, because the huge demands came very soon after the Depot’s drawdown just a few years before, where a great many experienced operators were lost. As Christmas drew near in busy winter of 1995, Mr. Becker was so committed to the Bosnia mission, that he never made time to get a Christmas tree for his family. As his close friend and fellow ACE legend Falk Deckert recalled, “His colleagues ‘secured’ a Depot tree for him, tied it down to his vehicle while he worked, and for good measure, added a convoy rotating amber light on his vehicle to keep the Polizei happy. Family crisis averted!”
Juergen remembers the emotional trauma when the Depot was significantly drawn down after the Cold War, losing 224 people in 1988 and 852 in 1990. “It was easily the toughest phase of my Miesau career, but like every good organization, we rose from the chaos to be as strong as ever in future years.”
A Greek philosopher (Heraclitus) said “change is the only constant in life,” and Juergen’s experience at Miesau has been no different. “When I started out, we used 80 column manual punch cards to keep track of the millions of individual items at the Depot, since computers were only something at places like NASA and the movies. I witnessed the huge increase of munitions, and then full circle as we drew down and evacuated hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition from Germany, including nuclear and chemical weapons.”
But despite witnessing all that change, Becker still believes that an organization’s success still comes down to people and good leadership. “Some things never change. No matter how efficient you become, no matter how much technology or innovation you see, it still comes down to a motivated employee feeling good about their work and leadership that recognizes talent.”
He is most proud of his time mentoring new Warrant Officers during their initial assignments to the Depot, seeing them develop into senior Army ammunition talent. The Depot was a military operation until 2007, when it became part of the Theater Logistics Sup-port Center – Europe ( previously named GSC-E back in 2007). Since the transition, and under Becker’s watch while several Directors have come and gone, the Depot has continued to reach new heights, including an external DA assessment in 2018 when the Depot was the first organization of its size to receive zero critical deficiencies from the team.
Supporting him all along the way was his wife of 42 years, Margit. It’s easy to see she is proud of Juergen too. She’s quick to brag about his achievements, reaching the highest local national position in ACE, being named employee of the year for UR, and the many successes the Depot has achieved from operational excellence to absolutely superior accountability (exceptional audit and external assessment results). “Juergen is driven in all parts of his life, and I’m certain he has been an inspiration to many new employees and soldiers that have passed through the Depot, as he has been to me.”
Speaking of accountability, Pat Murray, Senior Civilian ammunition professional at USAEUR/AF HQ had this to say: “Juergen is renowned for so many important (vital) ammunition and accountability events. He was the person who literally made SAAS work at Miesau. (That was not easy.) He is considered an Army expert in our SAAS accountability system. Juergen is one of the reasons the Army picked Miesau when the audit program started six years ago. Call it Becker excellence. Miesau was an Army standard for maintaining nearly a 100% accountability of ammunition at a depot size facility. Mr. Becker helped pioneer the use of RF Tags and technology for ammunition shipments, and its integration into SAAS. He got Miesau to ISO 9002 Quality Management standards. When I remember Juergen, it’s simply excellence at the most important aspect of ammunition, and that is accountability.”
Mr. Helmut Haufe, the General Manager of Theater Logistics Support Center Europe/Africa, and the senior Local National Civilian in USAREUR/AF, stated “Juergen Becker has dedicated his entire professional life to his organization and the mission of ammunition support to Army in Europe. For almost five decades, he has been the role model for the loyalty, competence and professionalism of the entire civilian workforce of Miesau Army Depot.”
Theresa (Tre’) Smith, (Executive Director, De-fense Ammu-nition Center), was the first Director of Am-mu-nition Center Europe when it converted from military leadership to TLSC-E/A. She remembers Jürgen with fondness, and she said there was no question he was the best choice for the first Local Natioinal Deputy. “Jürgen was instrumental in the transformation of the Ammunition and Explosives (A&E) mission in the European Theater from military to civilian management. This organization was formed from the residual Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) force structure from three organizations in two countries, all of which were either part of inactivating or restructuring organizations. He was tasked to accept these sub-activities, transform the workforce from military-civilian mix to a pure civilian workforce, form a new HQ structure, and then forge this collection of personnel with no coherent organizational identity into a highly functional team. Jürgen was the corner stone to our success in the transformation and restructure of Ammunition Center Europe. His steadfast demeanor and unwavering aspirations to for the organizations success was infectious to all in his midst.”
“Becker is a legend in the Army European ammunition community,” said Christopher J Roscoe, the current Director of ACE. “He was just as dedicated to his work on his final day 31 January 2022 as when I arrived 7 years ago. He cares deeply about the people and the organization, and has always put them before himself. His leadership will be sorely missed, but the ski slopes and Andrea Berg concerts are calling!”
In a situation right out of an episode from the 1948-1961 TV series “This is Your Life,” Juergen recently made time to visit with Traudel Grinda, the person that hired him into ACE all those many years ago back in 1974. He remembers her turning him away at the time, because there were no positions. After he had already left the building, Traudel was yelling out her office window into the parking lot for Juergen to return, as she had missed a recently available position. And the rest is 48 years of history excellence.
As Becker prepares for a life after the U.S. Army, he hopes that he has had the same impact on others that they have had on him. “I would not change anything.”