Garrison commander bids fond farewell

Col. John P. Stack, USAG Stuttgart commander
Col. John P. Stack, USAG Stuttgart commander

Commentary by Col. John P. Stack
USAG Stuttgart commander

The past three years have easily been among the best in my entire career, and perhaps even my entire life, and long after I’ve hung up my uniform and Petrina and I have settled down to watch the grandkids grow up, we’ll remember our time here with great fondness.

We’ve had the chance to enjoy travel opportunities and the diverse, rich culture this city has to offer. We’ve been able to go shopping in the bustling downtown area of Germany’s fourth largest metropolitan area, and then just a 45-minute drive later, be in the heart of the Black Forest, a national forest that is, quite literally, the stuff of German legend.

And yet what’s really made this such a great assignment is the community we’ve been a part of. It’s unlike other community in the world.

It starts with our fantastic and gracious hosts and neighbors in Stuttgart and the surrounding communities. In my role as the garrison commander I have an opportunity to interact with the civic leadership of the greater Stuttgart area, and as a service member living in Germany, I get to interact with Germans on a daily basis, much like the rest of this military community. In the few years I’ve been here, they have never made me feel like an outsider or visitor, but more as a neighbor, a fellow community member, almost a family member.

The host nation community here is warm and welcoming, and enthusiastically supportive of our military community. From cooperative efforts like the improved heating plant project, to the absolutely vital host nation employees among our ranks, to the day-to-day business of supporting a 22,000-plus military community, this garrison and the tenant units it supports couldn’t ask for more engaged and supportive hosts.

On post, we enjoy a vibrant joint services community. One of only two military installations with two combatant commands, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart also supports a number of other diverse and crucial organizations. These tenant units are actively engaged in critical missions for our nation every day, and the pace of operations rarely slows for them. Despite that, they still manage to do something more than just reside in this community; they contribute to it on a meaningful basis.

The final piece of the puzzle in the USAG Stuttgart community is the workforce of professional, dedicated garrison employees. From the team at the Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate who provide a wide variety of support for service members and their families, to the military police and firefighters overseeing the day-to-day emergency and security operations, to the many others throughout this amazing staff, this team works hard to go unnoticed.

What I mean by this is because of their hard work, the vehicle registration office is able to handle customers in a timely manner, and Military Police are on patrol keeping our roads and communities safe. The gyms open on time in the early hours of the morning, and hundreds of working families have child care. All of these day-to-day things go unnoticed unless there is some sort of challenge.

Making things go smoothly so that the customer is not aware of what’s going on in the background is only achieved through dedication and professionalism. So, the next time you don’t notice a wait at vehicle registration, the next time you don’t see a car speeding through housing, or the next time your morning routine includes hitting the gym early, you can thank a garrison team member, because they make that possible.

But there’s so much more to what we’ve all been able to do together as a team. Our German partners, our tenant units and the amazing garrison workforce here have put their shoulders together and pulled this community through some major accomplishments.

The garrison won the Army Communities of Excellence Most Improved award in 2014 for a variety of community efforts, including an aggressive water and energy efficiency program that generated almost $2 million in cost savings, and major initiatives to improve quality of life for the assigned personnel. For the first time in over 10 years, we reduced our total energy costs by more than $2 million over the last year through a multi-layered energy conservation plan that included utilities modernization projects, renewable energy project execution, and the Green Boot energy conservation program.

We also broke ground on a Panzer school complex that I think will be one of the greatest improvements to this garrison for a very long time. This elementary and high school complex will provide a state-of-the-art learning facility and a perfect learning environment for our students. Opening this complex will also allow a shuffling of other schools that will enable significant improvements to those facilities as well.

We also continually improved our facilities here, including remodeling projects at both the medical and dental clinics, expanding our vehicle registration and inspection facility, and adding balconies to our family housing units to further improve the quality of life of our families living in Army housing.

One thing that’s critical to our operations in the garrison is our ability to reach the community members with important and useful information. The improvement of our ability to reach those audiences has been astounding.

There has been a 77 percent increase in the use of our website, a 35 percent increase in smartphone engagement and a 66 percent growth in our social media subscription rate. Most impressive though, is the 650 percent increase in social media engagement and the four-fold growth of our daily email subscribers. Truly, we are keeping this community informed like never before.

I could continue on detailing the great things this community has accomplished, but most of you reading this already know what a great community this is, populated by great people.

I want to close by reiterating that it is not the on-post facilities, or the great sites and communities outside the gate that have made this a great assignment. Nor it is the great things we have accomplished together, though that is also something I will take with me forever.

It’s simply the people that make up this community. From our host nation neighbors and friends, to the service members, civilians and families of this joint community, to the hard-working garrison workforce; it is all of you who have made this such a great assignment. It is each and every one of you who have made me truly feel our garrison motto on a daily basis; “I’m glad I live here!”

From the entire Stack family, to the entire Stuttgart military community, thank you so much for a wonderful experience, and we wish you all the best of luck.