The ‘power’ of change: managing garrison utilities

Most people don’t even blink an eye when they power on their computers, turn on a television, jump in a hot shower or pull out a bag of popcorn from the microwave. We want electricity, heat and water when we want it. But when it comes to delivering utilities in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, there’s even more to it.

It is critical to the missions of U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command, with deployed troops all over the world, to be able to communicate 24/7. A power outage is not a welcomed event. In USAG Stuttgart, employees work every day to ensure these necessities are provided. One of these employees is Josef Werner Meschenmoser, a local national civil engineer who works with the Directorate of Public Works’ Operation and Maintenance Division. Meschenmoser started working for the U.S. Forces on Jan. 1, 1980, two weeks after he returned from a two-year tour in Saudi Arabia, where he worked for a German company. “Back then I was informed by the German job center that the U.S. Forces in Stuttgart was searching for local national employees and I applied for a job,” Meschenmoser said.
He first reported to duty at Grenadier Kaserne in Zuffenhausen, where he worked for the Engineering Resources Management Division of the Directorate of Engineering and Housing, today’s DPW. In 1983, Meschenmoser became the chief of that division. His duties included facility inspection and cost estimates.
In 1992, when VII Corps left Stuttgart, many installations were closed and reduction in force measures were conducted — mainly affecting the local national work force. Meschenmoser received a cancellation of his work contract. However, a few days later, the termination was repealed and he relocated from Grenadier Kaserne to Patch Barracks, to oversee the base maintenance contract for Patch Barracks and the Stuttgart Army Airfield, he said.

During the following years, the contract was expanded to cover the maintenance of all Stuttgart installations. In 2001, he relocated again, this time from Patch to Kelley Barracks. His mission was the establishment of a new utility planning and systems branch for DPW’s Operation and Maintenance Division. 

“Our branch contractually and technically maintains the military installations with water, sewage, heat, electricity, gas and oil,” Meschenmoser said. Throughout the following 11 years, and with the new utility branch, many things changed in USAG Stuttgart.  In-house utility operations were phased out and services were contracted out.

That is because the water, electricity and heat services for Patch, Kelley and Robinson Barracks were privatized, and now are the responsibility of Energie Baden Württemberg (EnBW) utility company. With the privatization, 15 kilometers of new water pipes were installed throughout all three installations and high voltage electricity lines were replaced on Kelley Barracks, according to Meschenmoser.
Other projects included major renovations of three power plants for EUCOM, the Defense Information Systems Agency and 52nd Signal Battalion, all on Patch Barracks. “These commands are critical and have to be equipped with a backup power system in case of a power outage,” Meschenmoser said. Another change affected the garrison’s heating systems.

“The garrison used to own and operate oil heating plants on Kelley, Robinson and Patch Barracks,” Meschenmoser said. These plants are now operated by EnBW.
Panzer Kaserne is the only remaining installation with its own oil heating plant.
According to Meschenmoser, the plant will no longer be operated by the garrison, as Panzer will be connected to the local community district heat system in October 2013. With EnBW now responsible for the maintenance and delivery of water, heating and electricity, the utility systems branch acts as a liaison between U.S. Forces and the German authorities, ensuring compliance with both German and American standards pertaining to utility management. The branch also reviews the contracts and makes payments. In 33 years of working for the U.S. Forces, Meschenmoser has stayed flexible and adjusted to the ever-changing structure and requirements of the garrison. To his co-workers, Meschenmoser has always been rock solid. “He has always been there for his employees,” said Hans-Joachim Kalweit of the DPW operation and maintenance division. “We can always rely on him for advice, and he is always willing to share his knowledge.” All one has to do is ask and Meschenmoser can easily rattle off details and events related to utilities,  even after all these years. He seems to have really lived his job.
Perhaps it is because he truly cares. Meschenmoser said he has always felt connected to the Stuttgart military community and its people, from a private to a general, or a civilian employee to a EUCOM ambassador. “Not only do we have to ensure that we are maintaining the military installation, but that we are taking care of the people who live here,” he said.