As with many other events impacted by current gathering restrictions, the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Length of Service Ceremony also took place in a different setting than usual recently.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures, almost 200 U.S. and local national civilian employees were thanked and honored virtually for their long-tenured service to the U.S. Army by Deputy Garrison Commander Dr. Kevin L. Griess and Command Sgt. Maj. Brett D. Waterhouse.
A video recognizing the Length of Service achievements of garrison employees was posted Nov. 6 at https://www.dvidshub.net/video/771849/length-service-ceremony
Dr. Griess highlighted the importance of the annual recognition ceremony as a time to get together and put focus on the employees and their contributions to the success of the organization — as evidenced by USAG Rheinland-Pfalz recently being named the best garrison in Europe and third best in the Army for 2019.
“It’s a small token of appreciation,” he said. “Especially now in times of COVID-19, we want to recognize our people.”
Aside from recognizing the U.S. civilians, throughout the years, LN’s have been a consistent and dedicated workforce to provide much-needed backbone and continuity in an environment that routinely sees U.S. counterparts rotating out every 3 – 5 years.
“The Length of Service ceremony is a thank you from the commander for the hard work put in every day,” said Daniel Nagel, Chairman of the USAG RP Works Council in Kaiserslautern. “Over the past year, we have all experienced many changes together that shows whether we are local nationals, government service employees or active duty military, we are one big family.”
“Thank you all for your longstanding loyalty,” Nagel added. “Unfortunately we can’t conduct the ceremony as usual this year, but will make up for it as soon as it is possible. In the meantime, we must keep everyone healthy.”
With approximately 70% of the garrison civilian workforce being local nationals, the deputy garrison commander explained just how important they are to the garrison mission.
“They’re the heart — and how important is the heart?” Dr. Griess emphasized. “I don’t want to portray us as just being glad the local nationals are here. We’re here because of them. This is their country and this garrison wouldn’t be able to operate without local nationals at work.”
During his career, Dr. Griess has served at three different garrisons in Germany. The constant he sees over the years of working with local nationals as part of the team is their strong dedication to quality and continuity.
“Because our local nationals get to stay here and the Americans usually rotate, they have the ability to know this type of system and usually have worked with it for 10 to 15 years,” he said. “They watch commanders come and go. So, they have a breadth of experience that you just don’t normally find when people move around a lot.”
Among the many long-tenured civilian employees with the garrison is Carmen Siebenlist.
Siebenlist recounted the local U.S. job market being much easier to enter when she first started her Army career as a secretary at an Installation Coordination Office. Since then, she has worked as a DOD foreign coordinator, secretary at 21st Theater Sustainment Command, recreation specialist, language assistant and finally worked her way up to her current job as a supervisory police liaison specialist with the garrison’s Directorate of Emergency Services, where she has remained for the past 10 years.
Having started in February 1979, Siebenlist has now served the U.S. Army for a total of 41 years. For her, one of the biggest advantages working as an LN are the many training opportunities the military provides to all of its employees. The challenge, she said, is adapting to the frequent rotation of colleagues and leaders: “With every new leader, philosophies change, readjustments have to be made and there are always new ways of doing things.”
Overall, Carmen credits her time working for the U.S. forces as having a thoroughly positive impact on her life, describing her work center as a very family-like environment Throughout the years she has made several close friends and even met her husband, with whom she shares a daughter. Work-related travel has also given her the opportunity to visit places she may not have otherwise seen.
Having worked for the U.S. Army for 35 years, Iris Eifler is also part of the long-tenured workforce with the garrison, serving as the command group’s administrative assistant at Baumholder’s Smith Barracks.
“Baumholder is my hometown and I grew up with American citizens. I had American friends in kindergarten, and later in school,” she recalled. Because the Baumholder installation was an open post at the time, she often came there to enjoy some of the many things it provided: “Back then I went for ice cream, pizza and hamburgers and was always interested in the American culture.“
In 1985 she applied and was hired at the transportation motor pool where she began her work for the U.S. Army.
She considers the working conditions, working hours and clientele all being positive factors working as a local national. “The best thing about working for the U.S. Army is the outstanding relationships I have built with the Soldiers and my work colleagues over the years. People come and go. I am still in contact with many friends and work colleagues who have departed this community recently —and even up to 25 years ago.”
Silvia Timmer-Moersdorf also works at Baumholder, as a project administrator at the engineering branch of the Directorate of Public Works. She started her LN career with the U.S. Army in April 1982.
Timmer-Moersdorf has had her LN job affect her life in many ways: “I met my husband right in the beginning of my job here at the DPW. We got married and our sons were born in 1988 and 1992. My sister made the acquaintance of her future husband here in Baumholder and moved to the U.S. in 1984. She has lived and worked overseas since then. Of course we have a lot of friends in the United States now.”
“Many of (our LNs) have been working here for longer than I am old,” added Works Council Chairman Nagel. “A simple word of gratitude can mean so much. (We thank you) as a sign of respect and appreciation.”
For Dr. Griess, working as a local national with the U.S. Army means making a difference in people’s lives and continuing to build strong relationships. “It can be exciting. When working with Americans you get to see who we are as people and we get to see who you are as well.
“When we’re at work we want to know: How’s your family today? How are you doing today? I think that brings more of a team kind of environment.”
Creating international bonds through friendships that may remain a whole lifetime and being able to foster cross-cultural relations are some of the opportunities the garrison provides for its employees, said Dr. Griess.
“I get up every single day proud of what every person does here,” Dr. Griess added. “And the fact that we can be in the same buildings, the same cars, the same rooms to work on really important things together – that’s testament to our long-standing partnership.”