The Citizen - May 2020

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Vol. 49, No. 6, May 2020

Serving the Greater Stuttgart Military Community


Photo by Jason Johnston, TSC Stuttgart Susan Triesch, local volunteer and member of the USAG Stuttgart community, donates her time to assist in stocking shelves at the Panzer Kaserne Commissary as part of an effort to maintain fully stocked grocery stores during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. This took place at the commissary located on Panzer Kaserne, Boeblingen, on April 23. To read more, turn to page 5.

Commissary workers and volunteers part of the new front line Story by Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort Special Operations Command Europe STUTTGART – On any given evening, approximately 30 workers and volunteers converge at Patch Barracks’ commissary to load, shelve and scan products – a steadfast team fighting on a new front line against a deadly and invisible enemy, COVID-19. Some cashiers, like Irina Hodges, a commissary teller, have consistently worked extra hours to keep the crucial commissary benefit open to the military community, retirees and civilians. Commissary staff is there daily to receive shipments, which arrive six days a week. “I’m just here doing my job and doing my part to keep everything going,” Hodges said. “Right now I’m full time at 40 hours a week whereas before I was at 28 a week.” The Defense Commissary Agency maintains four commissaries at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, a joint service military community serving roughly 28,000 Americans. “Since COVID-19 started, we’ve had a 50 to 80 percent increase in business and high-

demand items,” said Scott Harmon, commissary store director for Patch Barracks and Panzer Kaserne. “This all started around March 9.” Early on, commissary workers met increased demands with a much smaller staff than normal, Harmon said. “The issue was, when we lost ten to 30 percent of our workforce the show still kept on,” explains Harmon. “With the help of garrison leadership and the community, we’ve pulled together for all four commissaries and we’ve been able to get critical hires on board.” Along with the regular staff, the commissary and community have been fortunate to have so many willing volunteers step up and help out. A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to Special Operations Command Europe, was one of many who answered the call. Sick and quarantined in mid-March, his team members from work rallied, bringing him food and supplies through a window. His only human contact was through the phone. See NEW FRONT LINE, page 2

Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort, SOCEUR PAO Irina Hodges, a commissary teller, scans a customer's purchased products at Patch Barracks’ commissary, April 26. Hodges has consistently worked extra hours to help keep the crucial commissary benefit open to the military community, retirees and civilians at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart.


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Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Frontline workers essential to COVID-19 fight By Col. Jason Condrey Commander U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Many service members here at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart have faced adversaries in faraway places. In the face of danger, we have watched teammates commit themselves, without hesitation, to seemingly insurmountable struggles in support of one another. While combatting coronavirus here, I’ve seen the same. However, in this battle, it’s not the trooper with a rifle on the frontline. This new frontline, one that includes our homes and families, is defended by a maskwearing cashier behind a sheet of Plexiglas. Since early March, when the first COVID19 cases appeared in our community, we dramatically reframed our understanding of what is “mission critical” and “mission essential.” These last few weeks provided the opportunity for a renewed appreciation of medical workers, teachers, truck drivers, cashiers, hotel staff, people stocking shelves, and the list goes on... Squads of volunteers show up at our commissaries to restock and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with mailroom clerks. I, and many others, are grateful for their support. We’re seeing this both on post and off. Most people in our community live in German communities. You shop in local

stores and see the Germans’ approach firsthand. Our host nation partners implemented many measures to stop the virus from spreading and we did not hesitate to follow their lead. With this new frontline, there was no fallback, no backup position. Our goal was always to make the garrison our shelter. Essential services on post could not be closed, which meant essential staff would be required to work amid the spreading virus. At first, we surged to ensure essential services remained up and running. The way that everyone came together was impressive. Our staff, augmented by service members, volunteers and emergency hires, have not missed a beat. What makes it more impressive is how people do this knowing they are putting themselves and their families in harm’s way. Each day, they are out there — easing our access to food, supplies, fuel and more — despite the fact that they might come in contact with the virus and bring it into their homes. With the Red, White & Blue shopping group cycle, we’ve implemented measures that keep us separated in time and space. That’s helped break the spread of the virus. For a two-week stretch at the end of April, we had no new positive cases. Many more

people in our community have recovered than who are currently infected. These are good signs, but it’s not the time to be complacent. The coronavirus, the microscopic adversary we are dealing with, is still out there. With that reality in mind, you’ve heard me say, “Every day is COVID day, until it’s not.”

That said, seeing how our staff, organizations, volunteers and community members continue to support one another in these challenging times, I’m reminded fittingly of the Garrison’s slogan - “I’m glad I live here” — it remains for what we have experienced and whatever the future brings.

Photo by Rachele Pezzuti, USAG Stuttgart The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart public affairs team supports the commander, Col. Jason Condrey, during his weekly live-stream videos.

NEW FRONT LINE, continued from page 1 “I feel really fortunate to still have a job and I just wanted to give back to the community,” he said. “So, the past six to seven days, I’ve been volunteering at night to come here, just some small way to give back.” Some local German employees also stepped forward to help out with crucial manpower and leadership. Dieter Hitchfel, a nigh crew supervisor with more than 33 years of DeCA experience, is one of those locals who has been on hand to help. A manager, security guard and peacemaker, Harmon called Hitchfel the backbone of the night shift. “He’s really mission essential,” Harmon said. “He’s one of these guys who can give 120 percent.”

Hitchfel’s motivation stems from the severity of the coronavirus and its impact on people he cares for. “I want to serve the people and I want the people happy,” Hitchfel said, adding that he’s made friends with many Americans in Stuttgart, some of whom are now stateside. “In the 30 years, I know a lot of people and the situation is really hard.” With the hard work of the cashiers, regular warehouse staff and volunteers, more than 90 percent of product shipments are able to be put out for shoppers. For some items – cleaning products and disinfectants among them – the stores order large quantities, Harmon said. “So, you really need extra hands to get these items from the truck to the shelf,” Harmon said. “You need an army of volunteers and workers to keep this store full.”

Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort , SOCEUR PAO A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group, takes a break from stocking shelves at the Patch Barracks’ commissary, April 23. He is one of many volunteers who have stepped up to help the four commissaries meet the 50 to 80 percent increase in business and high-demand items, at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart.

UNITED STATES ARMY GARRISON STUTTGART Commander Col. Jason W. Condrey Senior Enlisted Adviser Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia Public Affairs Officer Larry Reilly

Castellano, Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort, Mac Hightower, Jason Johnston, Rey Ramon, Lea Scavetta

Facebook: USAGarrisonStuttgart/


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newspaper, produced in the interest of the U.S. Army community in Stuttgart by the U.S. Army-Garrison Stuttgart Public Affairs Office. Contents of the Citizen are not necessarily the official views of, or endorsed by, the U.S. Government or the Department of the Army. The Stuttgart Citizen is printed by AdvantiPro, a private firm in no way connected with the U.S. Govt., under exclusive written agreement with U.S. Army Stuttgart. It is published monthly using the offset method of reproduction and has a printed circulation of 5,000 copies. Everything advertised herein shall be made available for purchase, use or patronage without

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Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020


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Emergency hires fill critical roles amid coronavirus response

Photo by Rebecca Castellano, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Sarah Evans sorts packages as a new employee at the Patch Post Office. Postal supervisor Alphonso Hayes trains new hires at the Patch Post Office on April 24.

By Rebecca Castellano U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart STUTTGART – Emergency funding allowed U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart to fill crucial job openings during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus impacted garrison services, officials found personnel shortages at community mail rooms, garrison operations and the public affairs office. Col. Jason Condrey, USAG Stuttgart commander, saw the move as a way to “get people into the fight in a way that is more than volunteering and has the opportunity to generate some additional income.”

Condrey advertised the job openings to the community during an April 1 Facebook livestream. “We can bypass USAJobs, do an initial screening and have a conversation and you can be getting paid for your work as quickly as you were willing to volunteer.” Sarah Evans, a new Patch post office employee, jumped at the opportunity. “Everyone knows a GS position can be a great way to have a career as a military spouse but getting in can be daunting,” explained Evans. “So, this was a great chance for me to get a foot in the door.” Evans weighed the pros and cons of the position before applying.

“It’s a high traffic environment so the risk of exposure goes up,” said Evans. “But I know how important this service is to the community, especially now, and I’m lucky enough not to be considered high risk so I wanted to help.” Evans said her first week on the job was a busy but rewarding one. “We’re moving nonstop from open to close every day and by the end of the week I’m exhausted,” said Evans. “But it feels good to stay busy and know I’m contributing to my community during these difficult times.” Garrison public affairs, a team that oversees the Stuttgart Citizen, Facebook

livestreams and the garrison’s mobile app, was also in need of some help. Elizabeth Celtrick, a community member who had previously worked for the Army and had public affairs skills, joined the team and immediately set to work. “I actually couldn’t believe my good fortune when I saw that one of the openings was with the Public Affairs Office,” said Celtrick. “Little did I image when I heard about the jobs on Facebook that less than a month later I would be working behind the scenes to support those very garrison live streams and other information sources, which have meant so much to me and my family during the COVID-19 crisis.”


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Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Patch Barracks welcomes newest resident, a baby girl By Rebecca Castellano U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart STUTTGART – In April, Katherine Gavitt prepared for the unique experience of delivering her third child – this time in a German hospital amid coronavirus restrictions. She and her husband, Spc. Roger Gavitt, had no idea just how unique this birth would be. Gavitt’s best friend, Taylor Hough, helped them map out a birth plan, not knowing how the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Stuttgart would impact their experience. Hospitals were limiting visitors, even family members. Hough agreed to be at her side, if needed. “We weren’t even sure if Roger would be allowed inside at one point,” Gavitt said, who was preparing to deliver alone. On April 7, after a prenatal check, Gavitt arrived home at Patch Barracks. The baby was coming soon, the doctor said, and advised Gavitt to stay home until contractions increased or her water broke. Gavitt expected it to take a while, like her first two deliveries. The next day, when Hough checked on Gavitt, both women knew – it was time to go.

“We finished packing her bag. I was loading up the car. She started having a lot of pain and suddenly couldn’t walk,” Hough said. “I didn’t feel safe driving her anymore and made the call for an ambulance.” That turned out to be the right decision. As Hough hung up the phone, Gavitt’s water broke. “I just kept thinking this isn’t supposed to be how this happens, it’s not supposed to go this fast,” Gavitt said. Gavitt called out that the baby was coming and Roger ran to his wife's side. Hough searched for a towel and prepared to deliver her best friend’s baby. “There wasn’t really time to think or panic,” said Hough, whose natural instincts and training as a certified medical assistant kicked in. “I just got down, supported the baby’s head and talked Kat through it.” Five minutes later, a little girl, Eritrea Gavitt, was born at home. The proud father, an information technology specialist with the 52nd Signal Battalion, grabbed a length of 550 cord and tied off the baby’s umbilical cord. Minutes later, German emergency paramedics arrived. Mother and baby went to the hospital for observation. Both were given a clean bill of health. “It worked out exactly as it was meant to, so I could have the people I needed around me,” Gavitt said. The experience was something Hough said she’ll cherish forever and hopes never to repeat. “I worried that Kat would be hurt, or the baby wouldn’t be okay. But, we were really lucky,” Hough said, adding the experience strengthened their bond. “I think we’ll definitely be friends for life now.”

Photo by Rebecca Castellano, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Katherine Gavitt holds her daughter, Eritrea. Gavitt’s best friend, Taylor Hough, helped her with a unique birth situation recently at Patch Barracks.

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Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

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Community volunteers, a unity of effort Photo by Paul Hughes, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Dacian Todorescu of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association screens volunteers at the USAG Stuttgart community mailroom on Patch barracks. The CVMA assisted screening visitors on Sunday in order to relieve active-duty personnel from working weekend shifts.

By Elizabeth Celtrick U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Volunteering has always been the backbone of Army garrison life. For many at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, it is simply a way of life. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is altering daily routines in fundamental ways, one thing remains the same — the community’s commitment to the value of selfless service. National Volunteer Week may have begun April 19, but at USAG Stuttgart, the commitment is year-round and increased in reaction to coronavirus restrictions. Family members, active-duty Soldiers, retirees, civilians, and local nationals — a unity of effort in people responding to the need for volunteers — have been key to keeping vital services up and running, according to Charlene Schuler, the Army Community Service volunteer coordinator. “Our community has been able to meet the increased demand on supporting our vital services, because we have awesome volunteers,” Schuler said. “They quickly understood that

without additional help, our commissaries, PX, and mailrooms won’t be able to function.” Watching a recent garrison Facebook livestream, Lt. Col. Janette Kautzman heard Col. Jason Condrey, the USAG Stuttgart commander, talk about a new volunteer button on the garrison app — how easy it was to sign up and start volunteering. She thought, “This is something I could do.” For Kautzman, the idea of volunteering brought her back to her high school days, with the American Red Cross and Students Against Drunk Drivers. A few days after signing up, she got an email. Could she go shopping for a family under quarantine? She decided she would be one of the first volunteers within the garrison to do so. But, what brands did they like? What options did they want? “It’s stressful shopping for someone you don’t know,” Kautzman said. Sharing texts and pictures with the family led to some funny moments, as Kautzman sought out the right items. Shopping for a friend is nor-

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mal. But, when people suddenly find themselves quarantined, it’s harder to call that friend or neighbor: many might be stretched thin themselves, homeschooling children or working extra shifts. That’s where the volunteers step in. “This community has decided to approach this crisis with a positive attitude and that has made all the difference in the world,” Kautzman said. “We each have our own challenges that we are facing, so the smallest thing, such as a smile, can make the difference. It really takes a community to make things better.” The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association has a long tradition of community engagement alongside recreational road trips. When a volunteer event at the Landstuhl USO was cancelled, members decided that they didn’t need to wait until the travel restrictions were lifted before fulfilling their motto of “Vets Helping Vets.” Association members have stepped in to relieve active-duty personnel from working weekend shifts as screeners at the mailrooms. “We can cover this, and by doing so, give service members a bit of a

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break, so they can spend some quality weekend time with their families during these challenging times,” said Dacian Todorescu, a CVMA member and an active duty service member. “It’s about helping Soldiers and their families.” With the spirit of first responders, volunteers made themselves available to meet unexpected needs within the community. For example, power went out at Panzer Kaserne’s commissary. Cold

items needed to be moved to other chilled sections. The manager called Schuler. “I have had to send a couple of last minute requests for volunteers, and I always have at least a handful who are immediately available to volunteer,” Schuler said. “It always humbles me.” Using the garrison’s app, which now features an automated signup system, Schuler sent out an appeal for volunteers. Within minutes, nearly 10 people responded, heading over to help at the commissary. Humility is a common trait amongst this community’s volunteers. When asked about their service, most answer with the disclaimer, “I help out when I can, but others do so much more.” Many quickly shift the focus to the full-time staff at the commissaries, PX, mailrooms, DPW, bus garages, and other vital services who suddenly find themselves on the front line of this crisis, as their source of motivation to get involved and help out. “These are our family members, neighbors, and friends. Helping them is just a small way of saying thank you and keeping these services we all rely on working well,” said one volunteer who has been helping out at the PX, who asked not to be named. “Maybe this selfless service is the secret sauce to how this community functions — everyone helps out when and how they can, without need for recognition.” For more information on volunteering, visit the USAG Stuttgart App, COVID-19 button.


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Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Originals Cafe keeps cooking for community

Photo by Rey Ramon, TSC Stuttgart

by Bardia Khajenoori U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

Volunteers pitch in to pitch mail Story and photos by Rick Scavetta U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart STUTTGART – Mail trucks arrive most days at Patch Barracks’ community mail room, but Monday’s truck is always a full load. Inside, postal workers and community volunteers offload tons

of packages and sacks of letters – as much as Christmas season, although it’s now spring. The crew is no longer surprised to see mailordered toilet paper, diapers, car parts and video games, said Ray Hayes, postal supervisor at Patch’s community mailroom. “It’s definitely unusual,” Hayes said. “Normally, after January,

Photos by Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Domalski (above) and Master Sgt. Yvonne Stubbs (below) pitch mail at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart. As COVID-19 affected U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, military members were among the volunteers to support out in critical areas like mail rooms and the commissary.

we start to drop off in volume. Right now, the volume is starting to peak.” Postal staff across U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart work tirelessly, despite the threat of COVID-19 in the community. In late-February, when the virus first appeared in Germany, most were planning welldeserved vacations after the holidays — a season of enormous mail loads that runs from November to January. “There are a lot of people who are tired. This is supposed to be our time for personnel to rejuvenate and take the leave they’ve been waiting to do,” Hayes said. “Because of the shortage of personnel, they don’t get the opportunity to get that break.” The Patch CMR has 3,240 mail boxes and services more than 8,000 people — one third of the garrison. Up to five shipments arrive each week, depending on aircraft availability. Volunteers were a welcome sight. Air Force Master Sgt. Yvonne Stubbs, who’s normally based at Langley Air Force Base, wanted to help out. She’s since found the work hard, but also fun, she said. “It’s a little chaotic in there,” Stubbs said. “But the crew is very nice. This gives me something to pass the time and help them out.” Alongside Stubbs, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Domalski, an Army Reserve Soldier from Rochester, NY, took time from his job at U.S. Africa Command to do his part, he said. “I just thought I’d help out,” Domalski said, adding that when

not at work, he cycles nearby forest trails. “I just bike everywhere, as much as I can, and listen to music, just pedaling and enjoying the moment.” Five employees from the garrison’s directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare & Recreation — where services closed due to coronavirus restrictions — began working in the community mail rooms. By April 24, emergency hiring actions also allowed the garrison to employ five new workers, said Scott Palm, director of the garrison’s human resources department, which also oversees postal operations. “At Kelley Barracks, we originally had eight military members supporting the mail room. They couldn’t have maintained operations without them,” Palm said. “The community really came together to help out.” When the garrison commander, Col. Jason Condrey, implemented the “Red, White & Blue” shopping groups to distance community members, mailrooms were included in the schedule. That meant people could only pick up packages when their group was supposed to be in the community — just a few days, every two weeks. Meanwhile, community members turned to online shopping, ordering items through the mail. Within days, Patch’s mail room was full, making it difficult for staff to process, sort and shelve items for pickup, Hayes said. Community members also play a part in the system. “Come down,” Hayes said. “Pick up as much as you can.”

It’s been said that “an army marches on its stomach,” and that doesn’t change when every day is COVID day. The Originals Café on Panzer Kaserne still marches along, serving breakfast and lunch five days a week—albeit now for a smaller clientele that doesn’t have the option to hang around and eat on site. Daily headcounts are down from 100-150 per day during pre-COVID days to fewer than 20, according to SFC Dirk Yamaguchi, the dining facility’s manager. The major turning point, in his view, was the identification of the Stuttgart military community’s first cases in mid-March, after which widespread teleworking significantly reduced the number of people physically on post. The reduced demand is reflected in much smaller supply deliveries; an inventory process that used to take two people up to two hours can now be accomplished by one person in about 15-20 minutes, said Yamaguchi. They have put regained time to productive use, he added, including training and administrative work that a normal schedule makes difficult to accomplish easily. With carry-out meals still mandatory, Yamaguchi said menus have been simplified to offer options customers can carry out and handle relatively easily—pointing to a recent day’s offering of grilled chicken sandwiches or garden salads as an example. The café is open to all DOD ID card holders with base access, and Yamaguchi would love for new patrons to stop by and have a fresh meal at a good value. “I think they’ll be very happy with what they see here.” The Originals Café is located in Building 2963 on Panzer Kaserne, near the Panzer shoppette, and is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. for breakfast and 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for lunch (except federal and training holidays); carryout only.


Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

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Sailor waits at Army post for coronavirus restrictions to lift By Rebecca Castellano U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart After Petty Officer 1st Class Le’Joine Gardner shipped her household goods March 9, the U.S. Navy yeoman checked into U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Panzer Hotel for a 10-day stay. Nearly two lingering months later, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gardner doesn’t know when she can depart. Her next duty station is San Francisco. Like many service members worldwide facing the Department of Defense’s stop movement order, Gardner is facing this challenge as best as she can. “I’ve been living out of two suitcases,” Gardner said. “It’s very lonely.” Facing an unprecedented backup of movement orders is a new challenge, said Chris Morris, Director of Hotel Services for USAG Stuttgart’s directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare & Recreation. “We had to sort through roughly 4,000 reservations and figure out who was still coming, who we could cancel and then

Photo by Paul Hughes, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Le’Joine Gardner is among the hundreds of people at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart waiting to depart to a new duty assignment this Spring amid COVD-19 travel restrictions.

figure out a system to accept new reservations because our priority has to be to our current guests,” Morris said. “We’re letting people go day-by-day on their reservations because we understand that they don’t know when they're

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going to be able to leave.” The hotel team is doing everything they can to make their guests feel welcome and safe,

Morris said. “We’ve increased our cleaning schedule and are working around the clock to ensure everyone’s

safety,” Morris said. The garrison hotel staff’s kind and welcoming attitude has made Gardner’s stay a little easier. She also implemented some new steps in her routine in an effort to be more positive. “When I go to bed, I think about everything that I can’t control,” said Gardner. “So, I turn on cartoons because they help put me in a better mood before I lay down. Then I wake up in a better mood and I think about how can I keep this positive energy going? What can I do to take that next step forward?” To keep her spirits up, Gardner talks to her family in Georgia daily, but said it is difficult to answer their questions. "They want to know when I’m coming home and I can’t tell them,” said Gardner. “They want to make sure they get to see me before I have to report to my next command and I don’t know. Gardner’s biggest challenge – uncertainty.


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Stuttgart Citize

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n u omm


1. A U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart employee from Families, Morale, Welfare & Recreation changes a tire at Panzer Kaserne. The service re-opened for tires and oil change appointments after several weeks of being closed. Photo by Paul Hughes, USAG Stuttgart 2. Christopher Brock, store associate with the Panzer Kaserne Commissary, stocks shelves as part of an effort to maintain fully stocked grocery stores during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Jason Johnston, U.S. Army 3. Dieter Hitchfel, a local German citizen and night crew supervisor, overseas volunteers stocking shelves at the Patch Barracks’ commissary, April 23. He is one of several mission-essential employees who have stepped up to help the four commissaries

meet the 50 to 80 percent increase in business and high-demand items, at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart. Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort, U.S. Army 4. Mubashir Ali Mogal, sporting a Jets face covering, makes a coffee for customers April 23, during the White Group shopping days at Panzer Kaserne. Photo by Rick Scavetta, USAG Stuttgart 5. Maj. Gen. Joe Jarrard visits with Soldiers at the Stuttgart Army Health Clinic's drive-up coronavirus screening site at Patch Barracks. Photo by Rick Scavetta, USAG Stuttgart 6. Spc. Ashley Rosales, a religious affairs specialist with U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, explains the coronavirus restrictions to incoming customers at the Panzer Express. Photo by Rick Scavetta, USAG Stuttgart

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Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Curbside shopping starts amid coronavirus response By Rebecca Castellano U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart STUTTGART – To protect highrisk community members from exposure to COVID-19, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart set up a volunteer shopper program April 17 at the Robinson Barracks commissary. Single parents, high-risk individuals and anyone needing assistance can order, pay for and pick up their groceries without ever setting foot in the store. Mary O’Connell, a single mother with an autoimmune disease, was grateful to have a support channel that allowed her to get groceries in a safe way, she said. “This program is so great for the community,” O’Connell said. “My daughter does not have any other family to care for her if I get sick. I have a responsibility to stay healthy.” Charlene Schuler, Army Com­ munity Services coordinator and Army Volunteer Corps programs manager, said several organizations worked together to create the program, but community volunteers are the key to its success. “The volunteer can select a twohour window of time that they want to be available to shop,” Schuler

Photo by Rebecca Castellano, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Susanna Wilkerson selects potatoes as a volunteer shopper for the curbside pickup program at Robinson Barracks on April 26.

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said. “Then, if a customer signs up, I get the notification and connect them with the volunteer who is on call so they can coordinate lists and times.” One of those volunteers, Susanna Wilkerson, signed up because she wanted to provide peace of mind to individuals who need help. Wilkerson went shopping for O’Connell, calling her often to verify brands and options. “The risk to me is minimal compared to the risk for a single parent taking their child in there,” said Wilkerson, whose own son struggled with chronic lung disease as a young child. “If he was a baby-

and still on oxygen, I would be so grateful to anyone who did this for me and I just want to provide that relief for someone else and keep them safe.” Curbside delivery will continue to be available as needed until the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is eliminated. In the meantime, Shuler hopes that everyone will spread the word to those in need. “We can’t assume that everyone has Facebook or easy access to the internet so we’re relying also on word of mouth,” said Schuler. “We need to get the news of this service out to those who can benefit from it most.” Curbside delivery is available at

the Patch and Robinson commissaries. Download the USAG Stuttgart app and select the COVID-19 button to request a shopper or volunteer. The exchange has also added a new curbside delivery option to their online shopping program. All authorized patrons can place their order online and select curbside as their pickup option. AAFES Director Mike Ryan advises customers to wait for the email that states their order is ready for pickup before driving to the store. “Although the first message you receive after your order might say you can pick it up tomorrow, please wait until you receive a message from the store stating that your items are

ready for pickup,” said Ryan. Once that email arrives, customers can park in the designated pickup zone near the entrance closest to the barber shop and call the phone number posted. This will connect them with a store associate who will deliver their goods to their car. Ryan said the program has seen early success. “Seventy percent of online purchases since we started have chosen the curbside pickup option,” said Ryan. “And this is great because it limits how many people are coming into the store.” Ryan and his team will strive to keep executing the process flawlessly.

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Page 11

Window portraits highlight COVID-19 challenges, humor The Keating family (Army)

The McIntosh family (Army)

The Jones family (Army) The Meade family (Marine Corps)

The Polk family (Army)

The Mick family (Navy)

The Galster family (Army)

The Alexander family (Marine Corps)

The Monday family (Marine Corps)

By Paul Hughes U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart STUTTGART - Community mem­ ber Kristen Benda desired to help fight against COVID-19 within her field of nursing, but couldn’t. Instead, she got creative, using her outgoing personality, a ladder and a telephoto lens. “Even though I am a nurse, I was unable to join the fight,” Benda said. “With two high-risk children I couldn’t do anything on the front lines.” Determined to support her neighbors at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Bender turned to another passion, photography. She gained inspiration from images she saw back home and asked for volunteer families to participate in a window portrait project. “If I can do something to spread love and not the virus, then I want to bring some light to

this dark time” Benda said. After receiving an overwhelming response from her first photos, a couple of evenings of shoots turned into two weeks of work. Benda labored during long weekends and hours to ensure as many families as possible — including mission essential personnel — were involved. Benda receives no payment for the images, and any families that insisted were asked to donate money to charities instead, including one that is making facemasks. “I realized that I photographed at least one family from each branch of service here, even the Coast Guard,” Benda said. “I think the photos demonstrate how each family went all in to show how COVID-19 has affected them.” All photos by Kristen Benda

The Swank family (Marine Corps)


Page 12

Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Teachers adapt to challenging new digital classroom By Mac Hightower, Stuttgart Citizen volunteer For nine years, Mary Gruver has taught math at Stuttgart High School, her classroom a cornerstone within school walls, where students bring spontaneity, energy, excitement and joy. That changed on March 20, when the Department of Defense Education Activity gave official notice that school would close due to COVID-19 restrictions. Teachers and students alike had to step away from their classrooms and into the flat-screened world of virtual education. “A giant hole grew in the hearts of every Panther,” said Principal Rick Renninger,

referring to the high school closure. “We are finding ways to fill that hole through the incredible efforts of the staff, students and the entire community.” Gruver had to adjust the way she taught her students. She and her colleagues rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Their task was to adapt lessons and teaching styles for a digital classroom. Gruver now delivers her classes in 30-minute chunks, streamed to students in their own homes. Always interested in online learning and presenting material in different ways, Gruver embraced its challenges by exploring new math software and finding teacher groups to help with change. With 20 years of teaching, the technical part was not Gruver’s challenge.

“I miss my students,” Gruver said. In a normal classroom, Gruver might pair students up to share ideas while she speaks with a few teens one-on-one. She aims to get students to communicate their thoughts and answers – a luxury that is more time-consuming during online sessions. “It's difficult for me to engage them in meaningful mathematical discourse and support their productive struggle through an online platform,” Gruver said. To liven things up, Gruver started wearing a different goofy hat during each class period. Favorites include a turkey hat, cowboy hat, and bunny ears. Junior Aneysia Rhodes,17, enjoys the way Gruver makes math easier to understand, she said.

“Quarantine is making it a little harder to be hands-on, but she is making it work in the best way possible,” Rhodes said. At the elementary school level, supporting younger learners, notoriously known for higher energy and being less regimented, poses its own challenges. Tiffany Kelly, a third grade teacher, said students enjoy being in class, even if it is online. Class favorites are “share-time” and class “read-alouds.” “I kept the same fun activities,” Kelly said. “They are happy with some resemblance of normal.” Lea Scavetta, a Stuttgart Citizen volunteer, contributed to this report.

Photo by Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Mary Gruver, a math teacher at Stuttgart High School, wears interesting hats to liven up online learning. Many teachers at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart have adopted new methods of teaching amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Military child donates essentials to Chad organizations By Mac Hightower, Stuttgart Citizen volunteer When Ben Ringquist heard how commonplace it is in Chad for hungry orphans to sleep outside shops in the dirt, he found a cause. His father, Lt. Col. John Rinquist, who had been on duty in the central African country, had told Ben, 13, how the lucky kids have sleeping mats, but must roll them up and hide them in trees during daylight — hoping that their sole possession isn’t stolen. “I wanted to help children,” Ben Ringquist said. “It's hard to believe some grow up in these conditions. I wanted to make their lives just a little better.” April is Month of the Military

Child — a time to appreciate and honor the sacrifices made by children of service members and the challenges they overcome. Ben epitomizes the characteristics of a military child. Just starting his teens, he’s lived in six cities across four different countries. “I don’t have an area you would call home,” Ben said, adding that the hardest part of moving is integrating into a new school. “I make new friends.” The Ringquist family maintains a 15-year tradition of giving back. Each year, around the winter holiday season, Ben chooses a cause that he and his family are going to donate to by way of time, resources or money. Next, he researches the best

ways to help their chosen cause and decides what form the family’s donation will take. Previous recipients include local artisans, a few 5-k charity races, and a housekeeper in Nigeria who wanted to start her own business. This year, Ben donated to a clinic in Chad, which serves over 300 displaced children, specifically former child soldiers and former sex workers between the ages of seven and 15, providing them with resettlement assistance and education. Ben earned money by doing extra chores, selling his stuff, and the occasional monetary award for an academic challenge. It was enough to buy 40 yards of thick cloth for blankets, solar powered lights, sewing

Ben Ringquist donated books, cloth, a medical kit, sewing kits, and solar powered lights to children in Chad. In December 2019, he helped fund more than 100 Euros worth of soap, mosquito nets, and topical medicines for a group of 75 street children.

kits, medical supplies, mosquito nets, handkerchiefs, compasses, and 100 Euros worth of soap. His father personally delivered the supplies to Ben’s chosen

NGO and the Boy Scouts of Chad. “He’s resilient. He’s curious, empathetic, and infinitely creative,” his father said. “He wants to make the world a better place.”


Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Page 13

Photo by Lea Scavetta, Stuttgart Citizen volunteer Photo contributed Olivia Tabaka, 15, a sophomore at Stuttgart High School takes a break from online schoolwork with a trip to the Kenneth Colin Roedl, 16, a junior at Stuttgart High School, poses for a local forest. Teens are finding new things to do amid coronavirus restrictions. photo outdoors. Many teens are going outside to enjoy nature, one of the many ways to combat isolation during COVID-19.

Isolation tough on teens, some finding new outlets By Lea Scavetta Stuttgart Citizen volunteer Quarantine has been difficult for some Stuttgart High School students, with many teens losing touch with their routines, missing friends and not being able to participate in after school activities. Even though pandemic restrictions affect their social lives, teens continue to persevere and find unique ways to keep themselves busy during the week. Olivia Tabaka, 15, a sophomore, said staying at home forced her

family to get creative. “Every week, my family and I have themed dinners such as Disney-themed, where we dress up as our favorite Disney characters,” Tabaka said. “It really brings the family together and we have a good laugh.” Some students feel as if their lives took a pause. For Kenneth Colin Roedl, 16, a junior, restrictions under the coronavirus at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart allowed more time for reflection. “During quarantine, I’ve been able to slow down and focus more

on myself instead of worrying about club meetings or college applications,” Roedl said. He’s now taking more time to pursue hobbies such as tennis and poetry. The junior class president, Roedl is also focusing on schoolrelated hobbies. Students might be far apart but through virtual school and social media they are united. Stuttgart students running for student leadership positions have been using online platforms to get exposure since the once-traditional posters around the school will not be useful

Photo contributed London Massey stays up to date on her online schoolwork, a new challenge for Stuttgart High School students who will likely finish their classes their year remotely.

for the upcoming school year. Other teens said they need to keep themselves occupied and are trying to create a somewhat normal routine. Sophomore London Massey, 16, spends time keeping up with her virtual school work and watching movies. “I've been trying to keep myself busy,” Massey said. “I’ve been going on walks with my dog more than I ever did before.” Some teens are also becoming

more in tune with their surroundings and nature. Spending more time outside has had a positive impact on students. For many, putting down their phones and getting outside seems to help. Creating new ways to have fun with friends and family while being distanceconscious is another. “I recently had a ‘distant picnic’ with my friend,” Tabaka said. “It was good to see them and to get outside for once.”


Page 14

Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Tough times, really ain’t that bad By Capt. Hank Mauterer Battalion Chaplain, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) So there we were … hot in battle, engaging “Geronimo” throughout the Louisiana woodlands as Hurricane Hermine battered the Joint Readiness Training Center. After the rain, we faced languishing periods of sweltering heat and humidity. All while our notional dead just sat idle, confined to the makeshift mortuary affairs collection point that sat by the woods right off the edge of the road — an unusual sight to see, considering these Soldiers’roles. They couldn’t get back into the fight until their units properly processed the right paperwork. Some were stuck, with little to do, for more than nine days. Idle, they faced rain storms, sunburn, poison ivy, chiggers, ringworm and dehydration — with no gear to help. They were all miserable. Well, except for one Soldier, a friend of mine named Jason. Each day, I’d stop by the camp to check on their condition, bring them supplies, and get them medi-

cal treatment. I’d always make sure to spend extra time with Jason. At first, he echoed the camp’s woes of misery. It wasn’t long, however, before I began to notice a polar shift happening with his outlook. He went about camp cheering others up. Jason developed a new, positive and somewhat contented outlook. When I asked about it, he’d respond, “You know, if this is the worst it gets, it really ain’t that bad.” What a strong perspective! With that in mind, how are you faring now, as we together weather the trials and frustrations brought upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic? I have a friend on Panzer Kaserne who’s stuck with his family in an empty house, because his PCS was stopped after his household goods had been shipped. I have another friend on Robinson Barracks, who may be unable to join his wife in the States for the birth of their first child, because his leave has been put on hold. We probably all have friends in the community who were confined to their living quarters for at least 14 days, after being near a COVID-

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positive person. Yet, you know what? Many of these families, despite their circumstances, have had a positive attitude, and told me in their own words, “You know, if this is the worst it gets, it really ain’t that bad.” You see, you and I have a holy God who loves his children dearly, who understands our troubles and can strengthen and encourage us during these difficult times. He can help us to even “consider it all joy … when [we] encounter various trials.” Why is that? Well, for one reason, it’s because we “[know] that the testing of [our] faith produces endurance … that we may [become] perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). It’s like how weightlifters can enjoy the soreness that comes with a good workout, because they know they are gaining greater strength and endurance from it. So, too, can we regard trials in our lives when we realize our faith is consequently developing greater strength and endurance. God’s “plans [are] to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). God encourages us to instead “set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). For as you and I know, it can be all too easy to get flustered when our plans are thrown out the window. Have you ever noticed how often

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only forgotten about the situation, but it’s become irrelevant to us? So, during this crazy and uncertain moment in history, let us instead try to put our trust in God, to be filled with his joy, to roll with the situation before us, and to try to make the most out of this time, because, more than likely, “You know, if this is the worst it gets, it really ain’t that bad.”

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Stuttgart Citizen, May 2020

Page 15

Garrison unleashes the ‘tigers’ against COVID-19 Story by John Reese U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart As U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart grapples with COVID-19, Stuttgart military community members know about the “Red, White and Blue” groups for conducting routine business. However, elements of another group, the garrison’s combined military and civilian “tiger” team, has been in place — and in public–since mid-March. Their main task — assemble a joint service team of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to screen community members entering highly-trafficked garrison services. All the now famous healthrelated questions that screeners asked were also part of the job. Prior to the height of the emergency, Col. Jason Condrey and Command Sgt. Maj. Toese Tia, the garrison command team, knew that education and information would be key to combatting the virus. Screeners would help with that effort. Garrison leaders addressed the challenge by making sure screeners were at the gates and essential services, such as the commissary and Exchange, explained Capt. Carlie Wilson, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG Stuttgart.

“Col. Condrey wanted to make sure we were safeguarding the community and effectively using available personnel,” Wilson said. The team also included 1st Sgt. Lisa Zoechbauer, HHC USAG Stuttgart and Kathryn McNeely, deputy to the garrison commander. Staff from the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center and the Stuttgart Law Center supported the effort, ensuring the team’s actions

were within U.S. and German legal boundaries. “We determined that using internal garrison employees would allow us to maintain safe procedures and best protect garrison essential services while also ensuring the combatant commands and other mission partners maintained their ability to conduct their daily mission requirements,” Wilson

said. “We realized that screeners were going to be an enduring requirement and we needed to build redundancy among the screener teams to be able to execute the mission.” Many different ideas and approaches were considered, Wilson said, leading to the creation of a tiger team from garrison personnel who were not able to perform their normal jobs due to

Photo by Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Marine Sgt. Dakota James Heninger, from Marine Forces Europe and Africa, checks a community member’s identification at the main Exchange store on Panzer Kaserne in Boeblingen, Germany. Screeners were a part of the tiger teams employed at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart to help with the COVID-19 response.

NEWS BRIEFS Schools remain closed On May 1, the Department of Defense Education Activity notified parents that it will keep schools closed to students for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year. DODEA will maintain digital teaching and learning in all schools across Europe. Teachers and administrators will continue working to maintain their digital learning programs in order to ensure continuity of education for students. Shop at home, pickup at Panzer On May 4, the main Exchange on Panzer Kaserne expanded its curbside pick-up service to seven days a week. Patrons order online and pick-up at the Exchange.

Parking spots near the “barber shop” entrance are designated for the service. Because there is no in-store contact, this service is not linked to the Red, White & Blue shopping groups established by U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart. The main Exchange will also open an hour earlier and close an hour later each day. Volunteers to shop at Patch Starting May 6, volunteer shopping is available at the Patch Commissary. This allows high risk or people who are outside of their Red, White & Blue shopping group window to pick up items without going into the commissary. Patrons needing the service may use the Stuttgart App to request a volunteer to shop for them. The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart volunteer coordinator then makes sure volunteer shoppers are

linked with those needing curbside service. Curbside shopping was first implemented at Robinson Barracks in late April. New mail rooms hours Community mail rooms recently added additional hours during the Red, White & Blue cycle. Weekdays will open an hour earlier, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then from 3:30-5:30 p.m., for a total of five hours. On weekends, the CMRs are open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Some FMWR services to reopen In response to community requests, the garrison’s directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation reopened some of its services during the first week of May. Retail operations at Arts & Crafts at Patch Barracks resumed. Patrons at the Patch Library can

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COVID-19 imposed restrictions. “The garrison needed to pull together a team to tackle the unique problem sets created by the COVID19 pandemic,” Wilson explained. “Col. Condrey and the leadership identified groups of willing and able USAG-Stuttgart employees who resolutely embraced tasks assigned outside their normal duty positions, such as the screening jobs at the mission essential services.” Identifying personnel to meet the COVID-19 demands was one of the ways the commander leveraged the garrison team to protect essential services on the installation for community members, Wilson said. The tiger teams were created to meet the commander’s and USAREUR's intent to safeguard the community while ensuring mission readiness. In addition to Soldiers and Marines, staff from the garrison’s directorate of Families, Morale, Welfare & Recreation also supported screening missions at Patch Barracks’ Express and food court. “We also have other directorates providing personnel who are acting similar to a tiger team, but are functioning down in the garrison emergency operations center,” Wilson said, adding that they support the Garrison Assistance Team, a hotline for answering community member questions.

go online to check out items and pick them up at the library. Outdoor Recreation is again open for equipment rentals. Increased hygiene, physical distancing, mask and payment measures are in place for each of these services. Each of these services are open outside of the Red, White & Blue cycle. For current opening times, consult the FMWR website at: Value Added Tax Office appointments The Value Added Tax office, run by the garrison’s directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation, is only open on Wednesdays and Fridays by appointment. VAT forms are being issued for all purposes. Call to make an appointment Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Call DSN 596-3678 or CIV 0964170-596-3678.