The recent spring-break week saw people traveling to popular destinations such as Miami, Daytona and Panama City, Florida; South Padre Island, Texas; Rhine Ordnance Barracks; and Coleman Work Site, Mannheim.
At least it would appear that way, with more than a thousand young men and women descending on those last two locations in the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz footprint.
But instead of surfing and sunbathing, these visitors were signing and sorting — as in vehicles and equipment they inspected and checked out from pre-positioned stock at the European Activity Set at Coleman.
The EAS is an armored brigade’s worth of equipment being stored in Europe, to include Coleman, for U.S.-based rotational forces to use when training in Europe.
The Army’s incoming rotational forces, to include the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia; the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and the 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy, are gearing up en route to further destinations eastward in support of multinational exercises and operations, such as Atlantic Resolve, Anakonda, Saber Junction and Swift Response.
As they ready to move forward to countries such as Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, the Soldiers are logistically supported by the USAG Rheinland-Pfalz team during their stopover. At ROB, they are housed, fed and provided the comforts of home through a variety of services and facilities. And at Coleman, the EAS support crews ensure the readiness of tracked fighting vehicles, Humvees and other equipment.
“These are big missions in support of our NATO allies, and we’re fully committed to enabling the success of our rotational forces with the right equipment at the right time,” said Col. G. Shawn Wells Jr., garrison commander.
The garrison support has not gone unnoticed, nor unappreciated, by the Soldiers temporarily calling ROB home and Coleman their place of duty.
“I was here for the first rotation last year when Coleman was just starting (the EAS support mission), and there’s been significant improvement in getting units in and out quicker and streamlined processes and planning,” said Capt. Jonathan Berti, 1st Brigade, 3rd ID electronic warfare officer, whose team is in charge of the Mayor’s Cell that coordinates with garrison staff for the equipment draw, lodging, meals and quality-of-life issues.
“There are a lot of Soldiers at ROB right now,” Berti continued. “But the capabilities are in place to support all of us. And here (at Coleman), it’s been a painless process and a lot easier than the last go around.”
That sentiment was echoed by several others who’ve witnessed firsthand the transformation of the EAS system implemented at Coleman last year.
“For such a large draw (of equipment), the EAS crew has done a great job organizing the equipment and readying it for us this time so we can focus on the maintenance,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Figueroa, platoon leader with the 3rd Infantry Division’s Alpha Company, 1st Platoon, 10th Engineer Battalion. “Last year, our time was divided 50/50 between the property turnover and the maintenance. Now it’s much faster, with 10 percent of our time spent on the property piece and 90 percent on maintenance. It’s a much better system.”
The system entails a lot, according to Mike Robinson, one of the EAS on-site crew who supports the rotational forces.
“When the heavy equipment comes in, such as graders and bulldozers, and is assigned to our shop, we inspect it, service it, repair it as necessary, do a re-inspection and quality-control check, and then put it on the line for issue,” Robinson said.
What makes the task challenging for the Coleman site workers is that the equipment is returning primarily from other downrange operations and sometimes hasn’t received the in-depth maintenance it should while in the field.
“We’re still getting some equipment from Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, and those things need a good servicing,” Robinson said.
Those desert-tan vehicles also need to be repainted to the standard three-color camouflage pattern of green, brown and black for the European theater, and that’s another function performed at Coleman. In addition to the one permanent paint hangar at the Mannheim installation, U.S. Army Europe recently added two mobile paint racks.
“Having three painting areas saves an incredible amount of time on reconfiguring the exteriors,” explained Matt Wheeler, Coleman site manager. “Instead of having to wait to completely clean and flush the previous color from the system, they go from one area to the next.”
Once the vehicles have been checked, serviced, painted and certified as ready, they are issued to the rotational force and the transiting Soldiers load them onto the trains at Coleman’s rail yard for the trip to various destinations. With the large volume of outbound material to support a number of concurrent operations, the tracks have been busy with trains scheduled in and out of the small Mannheim work site almost daily.
With the increased operations tempo during the EAS draws, Soldiers need to refuel as well. Accordingly, improvements have also been made in the feeding of the troops at Coleman with the addition of a Containerized Kitchen unit brought down and manned by 21st Theater Sustainment Command food services specialists from the Clocktower Cafe on Kleber Kaserne.
“We set up this high-speed CK operation to make it easier for them,” said Staff Sgt. Lashon Kinnel, an advanced culinary NCO with the 21st TSC. “It’s also important for morale. Just think if you had to eat (Meals, Ready to Eat) all day. Now they can come here and get a nice hot chow.”
“The process is a lot more helpful now,” agreed Sgt. Michael Hanspard, a 3rd ID culinary NCO in charge of a seven-member food-services team preparing to go to Poland and provide CK operations support to the infantry division participating in Exercise Anakonda June 7 to 17. “This is my third time here, and things are more fluid and faster paced. We didn’t have the CK set up here previously. It may not seem (like a big deal), but it helps us better focus (on the upcoming mission) as part of the show of force to show we’re here to help our Allied partner nations.”
That big picture concept is well understood by the 3rd ID Soldiers getting ready at Coleman for the Polish exercise that will involve more than 25,000 participants from 24 nations to demonstrate allied defense capabilities to deploy, mass and sustain combat power to support assurance and deterrence measures in one of U.S. Army Europe’s premier multinational training events.
“We’re looking forward to doing some really neat stuff with the Polish, especially on electronic warfare,” said Berti on the training to integrate Polish national command and force structures into a multinational environment. “But for now, it’s all about getting the Soldiers what they need to draw their equipment, from lodging and meals to transportation. The (garrison) support has been excellent.”
Sgt. Daniel Gillespie, a 3rd ID Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic billeted at ROB, concurs.
“They have everything we need there,” Gillespie said. “They have a nice gym and dining facility, a USO, a Java Cafe with free Wi-Fi and video game systems. There’s a lot to offer.”
With more than two thousand rotational forces scheduled through June, making sure there’s a lot to offer is part of the garrison’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation mission, and they’ve adjusted operations at ROB to provide the best possible service for the influx of Soldiers.
Hours of operation have been increased at several facilities, such as the Java Cafe and the fitness center, said Steve Pelletier, director of FMWR, adding that “during the large part (of the beddown), the Army and Air Force Exchange Service will also be adding a food truck at ROB, and they have already enlarged their shoppette.”
It all comes down to taking care of the troops.
“As part of Installation Management Command-Europe, we’re proud to be able to provide the same type of in-garrison services and support that these Soldiers are accustomed to back at their home stations,” Wells said.