By Col. Jason Condrey Commander
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart
Summer here at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart passed too quickly, it seems. The past three months were busier than ever, as we implemented various measures to hold coronavirus at bay while attempting to resume many of the services and activities we quickly closed in March.
At the same time, we helped hundreds of community members depart our area to new duty stations and welcomed many newcomers. Vacation plans — our hopes to adventure to Europe’s famous hot spots — were put on hold or curtailed for most.
It just wasn’t the summer we had planned for. Cue the falling leaves and early morning trips to the school bus stop.
Coronavirus, and the measures we have implemented to fight the pandemic, will continue to be part of our community this school year. We’ve worked closely with medical professionals and school leadership to develop protocols to keep more than 2,500 students healthy and in turn keep our community healthy.
Students and teachers alike are keeping their distance. Their attention to cleaning and sanitizing has increased. With a deliberate focus on keeping in-person instruction ongoing, we meet regularly to track our progress and adjust. Our garrison team conducted a tabletop exercise with education and healthcare officials to plan for our collective response to coronavirus within our classrooms or the student body.
Parents and their children will play a vital role in our overall success. Know the COVID-19 symptoms and check daily before school. Have clean masks each day. Remind young people to wear their masks and stay physically distant. Know what to do if a child feels ill — procedures shared by our clinic and schools are available on StuttgartCitizen.com.
Equally important is to avoid those things after the final bell has sounded that undoes all of the day’s efforts. Keep masks on while riding the bus home, or walking from the school to the PX, and absolutely keep distance and masks in place while at the Food Court or Starbucks.
Meanwhile, we continue coronavirus testing and find positive cases in our community. Most are from international travel — either people returning from leave or moving to Stuttgart or on temporary duty. Many positive cases are asymptomatic, increasing the need for us to remain vigilant in our testing and quarantine efforts. Masks in public places and handwashing remain our best defenses, but our two-test strategy for travel and newcomers combined with quarantine measures has been the deciding factor over the last month.
Why are all of these measures important? Commands here carry out important missions, overseeing operations across two continents and beyond. We have troops deploying into harm’s way. While we are battling a microscopic enemy, adversaries in other parts of the world continue their activities against us.
Most of us, who have served anytime during the past 19 years since Sept. 11, 2001, know why we must remain healthy, focused and ready. This month, as we mark the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we should pause to reflect on the lives lost that fateful day and the sacrifices our military has made since then.
Our community faces stressors that many people outside military circles cannot understand. Long hours, deployments, loneliness, fatigue, sorrow and loss — these have been all too common in our lives. For some, the pressure can be too much.
Each September, we focus on suicide prevention awareness. Amid COVID-19, that is even more challenging. Isolation is real. Stress is among us. We don’t see each other as often. When we do, conversations are often through a mask. It makes it harder to recognize the telltale warning signs.
If you are feeling sad or depressed, remember that it is a sign of strength — not a weakness — to seek help. We have many people who can help — professionals who offer free, confidential counseling and assistance. If you need assistance, or know someone who does, don’t hesitate. Call the military police at 07031-15-3102. Any time, day or night, they can immediately put you in contact with our garrison resources.
Finally — as days are getting shorter, leaves are falling and homework for kids becomes a reality — there are many ways to enjoy your time here in Stuttgart. Our Public Affairs team has compiled some nearby places to visit. I encourage you to get out and see the local sights. A short trip with friends or family can make all the difference.
Before long, you’ll know why we continue to say, “I’m glad I live here.”