AFN Heidelberg transitions to AFN Stuttgart

After serving the Mannheim, Heidelberg and Stuttgart military communities for almost 20 years from Hammonds Barracks in Seckenheim, then Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, the American Forces Network Heidelberg station is scheduled to move to Robinson Barracks in Stuttgart next year.

It could be considered a reunion. From 1959 until 1993, AFN was headquartered at Robinson Barracks on the first floor of Building 151, now home to the RB Fitness Center, Library and other Family and MWR facilities. “AFN Heidelberg looks forward to coming ‘home’ to Stuttgart, as AFN Stuttgart becomes operational on Robinson Barracks in the coming year,” said Lt. Col. Sherri Reed, AFN Europe commander.

“There are so many opportunities to provide both U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command with all that AFN has to offer.  We are excited to renew old friendships with the Stuttgart community, both German and American.”  The move is already underway. According to Lance Milsted, the station’s operations manager, the AFN staff is preparing to establish a temporary news bureau in the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart headquarters building on Panzer Kaserne between now and October.

During the garrison’s Community Activities, Registration and Education Fair held Aug. 18, the transformation was officially announced: AFN Heidelberg now is called AFN Stuttgart. The first staff member, Sgt. Daniel Maffett, moved into the temporary studio on Aug. 13. The current plan calls for four people to come to Panzer Kaserne: two broadcasters, one combat documentation and production specialist and one engineer. The entire AFN Stuttgart team, some 16 personnel, is scheduled to move to Building 209 on Robinson Barracks next year. The 12,000 square foot facility, a former bachelor officers’ quarters, is undergoing a complete renovation and will feature studios outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment.

The AFN staff will use the temporary studio on Panzer Kaserne to produce radio and television stories, while all radio operations, such as the morning and afternoon shows, and newscasts, will continue out of Coleman Barracks until the team settles in on Robinson Barracks, according to Milsted. For the last 18 months, AFN Heidelberg’s focus has been to keep Mannheim and Heidelberg community members abreast on how the installation closures would impact them.  “It was our priority to make sure that people continue to know where they can go to get medical and dental treatment, and programs for their children,” Milsted said.

Those responsibilities have now been transferred to AFN Wiesbaden, AFN Kaiserslautern and the Regional News Center at AFN Europe headquarters on Coleman Barracks, according to Milsted.

The Stuttgart military community will certainly benefit from AFN’s transition.

“We’re all yours, Stuttgart! You have us to yourselves; you don’t have to share us with anybody else,” Milsted said. He added that it had been a challenge to simultaneously serve the Mannheim, Heidelberg and Stuttgart communities. While Mannheim and Heidelberg are geographically closer, covering an event in Stuttgart required a full-day mission, especially when considering  travel time. As a result, coverage was more selective. “What people will start to see is focused on the Stuttgart community, period,” Milsted said. There will be more opportunities to tell Stuttgart stories and get information out, to include Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and United Service Organizations-sponsored events. The plan also calls for more television spots and live radio remote broadcasts, according to Milsted. “We also encourage people to connect with us and share ideas on programs they would like to see or developed,” Milsted said. He also stressed that AFN constantly strives to do a better job in meeting the needs of the community. He recommended those interested in getting their events publicized or covered via radio or television to get in touch with AFN ahead of time, ideally 30 days out, to allow for adequate planning. “People need to know how to utilize us so that we can serve them best,” Milsted said. “We have to work through the transition, but we’re all excited about the opportunity to only focus on one community,” he added. “We get to know the people, the people get to know us and we’ll understand the heartbeat of the community much better because we’re in it every day.”