Wow, Boy, that’s some range that thar shotgun gots… Dumba## – that was just a mixed metaphor.
Like I mentioned, back in November 2010 (https://acpiper.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/hello-world/) I would also be ranting about my local community. I think today’s the day.
The Wiesbaden Military Community is growing. There is all kinds of construction happening around both the Airfield and Hainerberg Housing Areas. Some time ago the 1st Armored Division moved out and now the V Corps is moving in (http://www.vcorps.army.mil/). I don’t think I’m giving away any state secrets when I mention that a massive housing complex and parking garage is being added alongside the airfield, or that massive renovation and construction is happening at Hainerberg (http://www.herald-union.com/article.php?i=16600).
Our community is getting more and more crowded. We’ll continue to have an influx of folks being moved here from Heidelberg, and we’ll become ever more cramped. There are delays getting on post due to additional traffic and/or bottlenecks at the security checkpoints. Once on post, parking has already become largely non-existent. People park where they shouldn’t because there’s no room to park where they should. They park on the shoulders of roads, or all day in one hour or less parking slots.
I’ve got three methods of fixing our parking problems, and one of these goes back to my days in the Army…
1. Don’t the Company Commanders and First Sergeants have control over who gets to drive a car (Privately Owned Vehicle in military jargon)? In my day you were not authorized to get your driver’s license until you were a Command sponsored Specialist (E4) or higher. Command sponsorship required an extension of the soldier’s tour of duty. Usually, you got command-sponsored when you got married, assuming that you wanted your spouse to come over. I don’t think I ever saw a PFC or lower with a car in my day. Another thing – we marched – in formation. Sometimes it was as a complete company, and other times it was squad-sized. If there were more than 3 people going somewhere one would lead and the rest would be marching in formation. Cadence was sometimes used, sometimes not. Whatever happened to that? Now, as I look around, I see soldiers driving 2 blocks to their destinations. They drive to the Dining Facility, and to the Gym. My answer number 1: if you live in the barracks (which is still an accurate term, in spite of the move toward more private “dorm” style accommodations), are not command-sponsored, and below the rank of Sergeant (E-5), you should not be authorized to have a POV. If you need to go off-post there’s a shuttle that’s usually almost empty that will take you to Mainz Kastel and the PX, taxis and civilian buses that will take you anywhere else.
2. Install pay parking gates in all parking lots. Just like downtown garages, make exemptions for those authorized to park there (i.e. for work), and charge the rest by hour, week, month, whatever. Give the profits to MWR.
3. Enforce parking regulations. Ticket violators, and make the tickets mean something. It does no MP any benefit to write up a ticket that a violator knows HAS NO TEETH in it. Conduct tow-aways for abandoned and untagged vehicles. Units can provide all sorts of dis-incentives to keep soldiers in line, including punishment to the soldier for something that their spouses may have done. If a soldier, or spouse of a soldier, performs an illegal activity then their command should take appropriate action, and that should include minor infractions like this. Civilian employers should also be able to provide corrective action to their employees. The bottom line is that parking violations are illegal, like burglary, and violators should be caught and prosecuted. And, while we’re on the topic of MP enforcement, there’s entirely too many drivers performing illegal maneuvers. I watch any number of cars daily make turns against our one direction only parking lot, and in fact, nearly got run over by a moron who not only disregarded the “Do Not Enter” signs but also wasn’t paying attention to pedestrians. Too busy chatting on the phone. Another favorite is drivers using the restricted roads (http://www.howtogermany.com/images/roadsigns1.jpg – look at images 250 & 251) as their personal thoroughfare. There’s one right along the airfield that’s a classic – probably used 100 times a day. One MP parked on the road with ticket book in hand could bring that to a (literal) screeching halt.
So, those are my 3 solutions: restrict POV operation for those in the barracks, charge people to park, and enforce the already established laws and regulations. All of these methods can be put into place – it’s unnecessary to choose which to enforce. The only one that actually costs anything would be the establishment of paid parking, and that would pay for itself in very short order.
Now, just so you don’t think that I’m only on the soapbox for parking, here’s another thing: Cigarettes now cost about $45 a carton at the PX (22.5¢ a cigarette, and these are TAX-FREE for sale outside of the US). I quit smoking in 1998, when Marlboros “only” cost $18 a carton (9¢ a cigarette). I was smoking between a 1-1/2 to 2 packs a day, depending on how much time I sat in front of the computer, so let’s call it 35 cigarettes a day (35 x 9¢ = $3.15). In a month the cost rose to (30 x $3.15 = $94.50). In a year it would cost (365 x $3.15 =$1149.75). Using the same calculations for today, at 22.5¢ a cigarette (35 cigs x 22.5¢ = $7.88 per day), (30 x $7.875 = $236.25 per month), and (365 x $7.875 = $2874.38 per year). Now, I’m only comparing the habit that I had in 1998 to the habit I might otherwise have in 2012, but I can’t – who knows – I may have died by now. You may argue that everybody smokes less today because it’s more difficult to smoke. There are fewer places, and more people like me who actually get up in your face and tell you to obey the rules about where you’re allowed to smoke. Also, since it is more expensive, a few may be more conscious of the INVESTMENT needed to “grab a smoke.”
So, what does this financial rant have to do with Wiesbaden? Well, in spite of an EXECUTIVE ORDER signed by President Bill Clinton (http://clinton6.nara.gov/1997/08/1997-08-09-executive-order-13058-on-smoking-in-federal-workplaces.html), there’s an outfit in Wiesbaden that has NEVER been in compliance. In fact, I would wager that there’s one at just about every military region. In Wiesbaden the place is called “The Cappuccino Casino,” and it’s in the Hainerberg Shopping Center. Essentially, it’s a common bar with an adjoining room full of smelly, smoke-coated slot machines. There’s also a separate room a couple of doors away for non-smokers. Please note that should the non-smokers desire something to drink that they have to go outside and down a couple of doors to get to the bar.
After the Executive Order was released the Army updated its Regulation on Health Promotion, and in turn, all local commands updated their policies on smoking. Cessation courses and anti-smoking campaigns became prevalent, and smoking, which was common in my day, slowly began to be looked at, at least publicly, with disdain. In private, though, the The Cappuccino Casino held out, and continues to hold out to this day. AR600-63 (http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/r600_63.pdf) specifies where non-smoking facilities may be employed, and cites DODI 1010.15 (usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/dodreg/bldodreg1010-15i.htm) as a source of HOW non-smoking facilities are to operate. To break it all down, authorized smoking areas cannot be in area where people may be affected by second hand smoke that don’t wish it. Even with the current exhaust system, since the room in question is also filled with slot machines, non-smokers should also be able to freely enter to use the machines. They are discouraged because of the excessive amount of smoke constantly in the room, and the lingering smell that pervades even after the smokers are gone.
Cappuccino Casino has previously argued that smoking and gambling are connected to each other – nothing more than an opinion that does not bear scrutiny. It might be argued that if people stopped paying $3,000 a year for tobacco that they could have more gambling money. My fix is simple. Clean up the “Smoking Room,” bring it into compliance with the Exec Order & the Army Regs by making the entire building smoke-free, and produce a smoking area somewhere outside, 50 feet away from the entrance/exit. Could even put picnic tables there and send an employee outside to sell drinks. The slots in both rooms could become available to everyone, and I can just about guarantee that the Cappuccino Casino wouldn’t lose a dime. This would require MWR, ARMP, and the local command to “grow a pair” and force the compliance issue, but that doesn’t seem unreasonable. Certainly better than closing it down for non-compliance or compliance renovation for a habit that’s just a dead-end anyway.
And, the last thing I have to say about this, is, if the Army is so all-fired concerned about the health of the soldiers, then why are cigarettes and other tobacco products still sold by AAFES/DECA, and at very nearly the same price that their stateside counterparts sell, in spite of the fact that 30% or more of the cost of those products are in the form of taxes, and those sold by AAFES/DECA are TAX-FREE? Can you say “Follow The Money? I knew you could.
Lastly, and I may have already covered this in another post, eating establishments on the Airfield suck. What do we have? Here’s a list – and if you locals know of a place that I didn’t list let me know…
1. Lil’ Italy – a tiny, overpriced mostly Italian restaurant in the Catering Center.
2. Subway – Food Court
3. American Eatery – Food Court (til 10:00), 4. Sahin’s Doener – Food Court (after 10:30)
5. Anthony’s Pizza – Food Court (people only visit Anthony’s out of desperation)
6. Dining Facility – recently VERY sub-standard, but probably still the busiest facility for meals on-post.
7. German Cantina
8. AAFES Shopette
9. Mobile Imbiss in front of the Shopette
10. Cinnabon – Food Court – certainly nothing there for lunch
There are literally hundreds of soldiers and hundreds of civilians on this post. Granted, many choose to bring their lunches or go off-post, but for those left, the pickings are pretty slim. And, it’s going to get worse – the lines will lengthen as the population grows. Besides the Dining Facility (DFAC), Subway is the busiest. People would rather wait 10-thick in line there rather than go to Anthony’s, which, generally, doesn’t have any lines. Both AAFES and the Military Community’s leadership really need to take a look at the problem and come up with a solution. There’s a building right next to the cantina – used to be a bratwurst stand for the German workers to use while they were building our bazillion dollar gym. Been closed since the gym opened. Hey guys! Use it! Make it a “Frank’s Franks” or lease it out. Replace Anthony’s with, I don’t know, something edible, and give us a burger joint, and I’m not talking about Burger King or McDonalds – I mean like a cafeteria, like what AAFES used to have.
I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve watched the Army become more and more technologically superior that we can now just about conduct wars by remote control. It won’t be long before DARPA contracts George Lucas to provide the know-how to construct a “Droid Army,” completely eliminating the need of losing any more soldiers in battle. So, with all this techo-talent, why can’t the DoD develop a decent eating establishment? Why do we depend on fast-food at a time when we acknowledge that 99% of all fast food is unhealthy? Yes, some is less bad than others, but even Subway sells more fat than lean. Salad? Healthy, right? Add cheese, croutons, and dressing, and you might as well be eating a Big Mac. The difference between your typical fast food franchise and a cafeteria is that a fast food joint is made for quick turnaround. Cafeterias, like restaurants, aren’t in a hurry to get rid of you. Since we all prefer fat and salt, despite what our guilty consciences tell us, then open some places that we can ENJOY, instead of just eat and go. Give us a restaurant or a cafeteria.
Since this blast is on home turf I think it’s necessary to say that these issues are strictly my opinion. I am not here to stir up dissension, or step on the toes of any figures in the community. I could have addressed this in a more regional forum, but since I do have a blog, and I use it to share my thoughts, then this is as good as any. I can’t say how many people might agree with me, and it doesn’t matter anyway. It would be nice to see a few of these changes but I don’t expect to see anything as a result of this blog.
On the other hand, if someone ELSE was thinking along the same lines that COULD be in a position to do something, READ this blog, and realized that He/She wasn’t alone, THEN this article was completely worthwhile.
Cheers to all of you who serve, and to those who serve those who serve.