A Closer Look…

8 Sep

…at the military side of things here in Stuttgart.  Many of you have asked about where John works, what’s available to us here on the bases- yes, there are several!-, what it looks like…So I figured I’d take advantage of this ‘PJ Day’- yes, it’s cold and raining here again today, *ugh*!- by doing an ‘educational’ post to paint a little better picture of that stuff 🙂

The Stuttgart Military Community, with about 30,000 people, is known as a “Purple Community” in that all branches of service (including active duty, reserve and guard) are assigned here: Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard. Federal civil service (this is John’s group :)), contract employees and local national hires are also part of the workforce. Within Stuttgart, home to the U.S. European Command Headquarters, there are  five primary ‘installations:’ Patch Barracks (where John works :)), Kelley Barracks, Robinson Barracks, Panzer Kaserne and the Stuttgart Army Airfield, all located within 20 minutes of each other. All were built in the 1930s as German military installations, and each has a combination of offices and housing. Amenities vary from base to base.
I found this map really helpful for getting the lay of the land.  I’m not sure of the exact scale, but you can see Stuttgart’s city center smack dab in middle and the US military installations labeled with black rectangles- the furthest ones being 20 minutes apart. Our ‘area of town’ is toward the lower left corner, Sindelfingen.  The two bases we’re most concerned with (how lucky and convenient!), are the two closest to us, Patch and Panzer.  *Click on the map to make it larger.

Detailed Map of Stuttgart with Military Installations...

Patch Barracks
Patch Barracks was constructed near Vaihingen in 1936 as a tank facility. Today its primary tenant is USEUCOM (this is who John’s working for), the senior American military headquarters on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Also at Patch are the 52nd Signal Battalion, Special Operations Command, Europe (SOCEUR), the Air Force’s Mission Support Squadron (MSS), the Navy Personnel Support Detachment (PSD), and Defense Information Systems Agency, Europe (DISA-EUR).

Heading onto Patch...

For our purposes, other than this being where John works, the two most important spots on Patch are the Commissary (SO thankful to be able to get our ‘privledged staple’ groceries here!’- think skim milk, fresh spinach, Splenda…ALL items you can’t get at a German grocery store!) and the Gym (my mornings wouldn’t be complete without it, especially now that it’s too cold to run outside!)  There’s also a Thrift Shop (where you can find transformers, German appliances, etc.), an electronics store, a sporting goods store, a movie theater and—for a taste of home :)—Taco Bell, Anthony’s Pizza, Burger King, and Baskin Robbins. Patch’s health and dental clinics serve the entire community military. The same goes for Patch High and Middle Schools.

John works on the second floor of this building...The tree is covering part of his window, though...

The Commissary (Grocery Store)...

Panzer Kaserne
Panzer (German for ‘tank’) Kaserne (German for ‘base’), constructed simultaneously with Patch with a cobblestone road specially designed to withstand the weight of tank traffic joining the two, still has the cobblestone streets and other reminders of those days still visible. This is where all newcomers start their Stuttgart posts as it has the Central Processing facility (think of this as ‘check in’ when you arrive 🙂 ). The wooded area behind the post is still used for training, as are the indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. Panzer is home of the Naval Special Warfare Unit Two, 1st Battalion/10th Special Forces Group; Special Operations Command, Europe (SOCEUR); 554th Military Police Company; 510th Personnel Services Battalion; and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe (MARFOREUR).
Of all the bases, Panzer is the haven for sports junkies. With tons of hiking and biking trails, plus nearby access to waterways, it’s the perfect place to rent recreation and sporting gear.  The fitness center (yep, there’s one here, too!) has a fun indoor rock climbing wall. Our main use for Panzer is the Exchange- basically a Walmart with discounted, tax-free prices.  There’s also a Car-Care Center (think of a combined Auto Zone with Jiffy Lube with mechanics), a Military Clothing Sales, a veterinary clinic, and the local chapter of the American Red Cross. The elementary school is also here.

The Exchange (like Walmart)...

Kelly Barracks

Kelley Barracks, surrounded by rich woods and fertile farmland, was built in 1938 when the German military struck a deal to replace highly cultivated plant nurseries with new facilities. In the end, the military agreed to remove no more than 20 percent of the original trees, a compromise that gives the post its character today. It’s the US Army’s Stuttgart headquarters, and also has a production theater, a gas station, a German restaurant, an arts & crafts studio, woodworking shop, a bowling center and a bank.  Because of it’s location, outdoor activities are a dime a dozen, too.  It’s the only post without a school, so students living here commute by bus to Patch and Panzer for school.

Kelley Barracks...

Robinson Barracks
Robinson is undoubtedly the most scenic of the four bases and gives an awesome bird’s eye view of Stuttgart. The hill was originally an agricultural area, and although the fields are gone, the vineyards still contribute to all the fine local wines. In the 1930s, infantry regiments moved into the new posts, training at the foot of the hill where apartment buildings stand today. Immediately after the war, Robinson was a camp for refugees and internees.
Today, Robinson is primarily a housing area. Although it’s the only base that doesn’t have a preschool, families do have access to a library, a movie theater, Pizza Hut, an arts & crafts studio, portrait photographer, thrift shop, and the only combined Post Exchange and commissary in Europe, the CX, which also houses the area’s only furniture store and toy store.
Getting Around
Getting from base to base (and from our apartment to each of the bases) couldn’t be easier.  While the car may seem like the obvious choice in terms of speed and ease, that’s not always the case, like during rush hour and when school’s starting or getting out for the day.  Thankfully, there are bus systems running around the clock, solely dedicated to moving folks from one base to another.  During the day, these buses run every 5-15 minutes (there are several stops per base), and at night, they run every 30-60 minutes.  Like everything else here, walking and biking are really common, too.  Paths are incorporated into every road (not just for bases, but all over the entire city) and through the woods, making it super easy to get around.
To give you an idea, we can get to Panzer in less than 10 minutes by bike, to Patch in just over 20 minutes.  Or, we can bike to Panzer, then catch the bus over to Patch, Kelley or Robinson.  It all just depends on the time and our schedules…Some days, depending on what we each have going on, it’s easiest for me to take John to work in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon, keeping the car for the day.  The flexibility here is just fantastic :).

How I get onto base without John 🙂

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