Building up Graf: in 2002 Congress appropriated $25 million for renovations and new construction at the Army’s Grafenwohr Training Area

Heike Hasenauer

A WINDING two-lane road snakes through dense pine forests and rolling fields in southern Germany, connecting the U.S. Army’s Grafenwohr Training Area to a major highway that leads to either Nurnberg or Berlin.

Many of the thousands of Soldiers who have trained at “Graf” over the more than 50 years that it’s been the premier training center for U.S. forces in Europe can probably identify the main post by its famous landmarks. Those include the familiar, Franconian-style water tower at the main gate, which dates to 1908, and the “gingerbread”-looking house that once housed the German Forestry Office and today is the senior mission commander’s quarters.

The area outside the 90-square-mile training site was inhabited more than 1,000 years ago, according to author Paul Burckhardt in his book “The Major Training Areas.” Grafenwohr earned the official designation as “town” in 1361.

Construction for a troop training area at Grafenwohr began in 1908, by order of the Royal Bavarian War Ministry and Prince Luitpold, regent of Bavaria.

Until the end of World War I Bavaria was a sovereign monarchy within the German Confederation. The training area was built to accommodate a third corps within the Bavarian army, with billeting and support facilities for 9,000 soldiers, and stables and blacksmith shops for some 4,000 horses. By 1915 some 250 buildings had been completed, including a 250-bed hospital.

The U.S. Army took over Grafenwohr in 1945 and eventually turned it into the premier training area for Europe-based units.

In 2002 the U.S. Congress appropriated $25 million to the Army to plan renovations and new construction at GTA. A six-year infrastructure-upgrade project began in October 2003.

Some $100 million of the estimated $700 million cost for medical facilities, schools and a new PX and commissary will come, collectively, from U.S. Army Medical Command, the Department of Defense school system, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, and the Defense Commissary Agency, said Allan Lucht, chief of engineering plans and services for the 100th Area Support Group.

The first visible signs of major changes to modern-day Graf began when two of the three storage facilities outside the main gate were demolished. The third is being renovated to accommodate a “one-stop” personnel center for Soldiers and civilian employees.

Accommodating a Brigade Combat Team

When construction is completed in 2008, GTA will accommodate the six battalions of Soldiers of a brigade combat team.

“The Army will build a town with about 800 new ‘build-to-lease’ housing units, schools, a daycare center and a church immediately adjacent to the training area. On post, we will build new barracks, a new post exchange and commissary, and a medical center, among other facilities,” Lucht said.

The construction plan is centered on the arrival of two battalions in summer 2006, said Lucht. Two additional battalions are scheduled to arrive every year thereafter, until all six battalions are in place.

When the full BCT is in place the population of some 6,000 Soldiers and family members in the Grafenwohr area, which includes the nearby military installations at Hohenfels and Vilseck, is expected to swell by an additional 3,400 Soldiers and 5,000 family members, said 100th ASG spokeswoman Kathy Gibbs.

New construction and renovation of old facilities is being done sensibly, Gibbs said. “You won’t have to go all over post to do business anymore. After World War II, Soldiers were located where buildings existed. Services grew up around those buildings, whether or not it made sense to have them there.”

LTC Dwane Watsek, director of public works for the 100th ASG at the time of Soldiers’ visit, said the current construction “allows us to correct the placement of some facilities.”

“Usually, the Army moves Soldiers and then builds infrastructure,” added Lucht. “This time the infrastructure will be built first. We’ll be able to realign the community into proper land-use zones, to put all the retail facilities together, all the troop areas together and all the community-support assets together.”

Other changes will include:

* Collocated Soldier living and work areas.

* Collocated operations facilities with arms rooms, so weapons can be quickly removed and mounted on vehicles.

* Relocation of the current 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy from Grafenwohr’s main post area to Camp Normandy, part of the GTA.

* Addition of another 800 to 1,000 “build-to-lease” family housing units in the communities surrounding the training area.

* Support facilities and schools will be located in the new family housing area.

“The facilities we’re building will hold any brigade-size combat element the Army decides to put here,” Lucht said.

“But, you can’t build without knowing if the facility will be for a Stryker unit or a tank unit,” added Rusty Mizelle, senior project manager. “So, we’re imagining any type of unit and building-in contingencies.”

Among those are storage areas for sensitive equipment, and special pipes for electronic systems, Lucht said.

“We don’t know exactly which unit will be here–although the current plan is to move an existing heavy armored brigade from here in Germany,” said LTC Scott Flanigan, director of public works for the 100th ASG.

In any case, the Soldiers who will be stationed at Grafenwohr will be able to train and go home after work.

Historically, Soldiers who came to Graf from other locations in Germany had to travel for hours to reach their destination, draw equipment and then stay in the field for about 22 days, Lucht said.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Soldiers Magazine

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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