Passport office delivers throughout pandemic

By Rebecca Castellano
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

Frank Jenkins helps a soldier apply for a passport on Panzer Kaserne. Photo by Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart.

The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart passport office is now taking appointments for services previously closed due to COVID-19. Customers can schedule a thirty-minute appointment on the USAG Stuttgart app for tourist passports and consular reports of birth abroad.

“We couldn’t accept customers for a 2-3-week time period,” said Frank Jenkins, a passport acceptance officer at Panzer Kaserne. “So, when we reopened, we experienced a big influx of customers who needed to report births or had expired passports or SOFA. We’re trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible.”

Currently there are only two employees able to work in the office. They accept 22 appointments a day at thirty-minute intervals. Jenkins said that anyone needing a signature on a check-out sheet can just knock on the door and leave the appointments for those processes that require more time.

“I promise we hear you and are doing our best to get to you as quickly as possible.”

“We try not to take calls when we’re in an appointment because we’re checking every detail on each form and if we are distracted, we can easily miss errors,” said Jenkins. “So, we try to focus on each customer and then take calls and walk-ins as we get time in-between.”

One common mistake Jenkins sees on forms are customers using CMR addresses for the passport delivery option. “They have to list our address in the block asking where the passport should be mailed back to,” said Jenkins. “If they use their CMR, we can’t accept the form.”

Another issue he sees is photos that are not two inches by two inches. “If you get it out in town, its often a visa sized photo and too small,” said Jenkins, who added that active duty, GS employees and dependents can have their photo taken for free at the Visual Information office, which is also located on Panzer Kaserne, in building 2948 on the second floor. There are also photo booths at the exchange or the gas station on Patch Barracks.

“If they follow the checklist we have on our website, there shouldn’t be any issues processing their application,” said Jenkins.

Community member Liz Jeffers scheduled an appointment for July 2 on the USAG Stuttgart app and used the online checklist to complete her paperwork for a passport renewal.

“We were seen right at our scheduled time and were done in under 15 minutes,” said Jeffers. “They told us it could take much longer than normal to receive our passport due to the backlog of applications, so I was shocked when I got an email that it was ready to pick up 18 days later.”

Jenkins said that while it is not the norm, since reopening they have received some passports back in as little as two weeks.

At this time the passport office cannot process official, no-fee passports unless the customer is traveling for official reasons within 90 days. Expedited no-fees will require a letter signed by a general officer or civilian senior executive. There is no option for expedited tourist passports in Europe at this time.

“We’re trying to handle each situation as best we can and be courteous,” said Jenkins. “We know people have urgent situations where they have to leave right away and we will work with the Frankfurt consulate and get them emergency passports so they can get to the U.S.”

As Jenkins and his coworker tackle the mountain of applications coming in, he asks the community for continued patience when calling with a question or checking in for an appointment.

“If you call and don’t get an answer, please try again in a bit,” he said. “When you arrive for your appointment, please knock and then have a seat. I promise we hear you and are doing our best to get to you as quickly as possible.”