3rd AF, German community leaders stress cooperation in mayors’ forum

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christian Conrad
  • AFN Kaiserslautern

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Randall Reed, Third Air Force and Kaiserslautern Military Community commander, co-hosted a forum with local German mayors and community leaders May 6 in Krickenbach, Germany.

The forum is an annual conference during which local community leaders and U.S. military leadership can collaborate to the betterment of both their respective communities.

This particular meeting was Reed’s last as the KMC commander. His two-year tenure in the position has been marked by a people-oriented focus in an effort to enhance cooperation between German communities and the U.S. service members they host.

On the outset of his role, Reed endeavored to open up lines of communication with community leaders to the widest extent possible, even maintaining regular office hours at the German-American Community Office in Kaiserslautern, a previously-unheard of practice by a KMC commander.

The widening of that aperture, Reed said, helped to ferry the larger Rheinland-Pfalz area through three once-in-a-lifetime crises: Operations Allies Refuge and Allies Welcome, the COVID-19 pandemic and, most recently, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“The thing that makes me incredibly proud is that when our nations decided to respond to the (Russian invasion of Ukraine), there was never a question as to whether our forces could go,” Reed said during the forum. “When the need arose, our forces were there from the start.”

Although Reed acknowledged the challenges of accommodating an uptick in readiness exercises and troop movements, he credited the help from community leaders and the GACO’s role in facilitating coordination in keeping the crisis from evolving.

“Our combined efforts made a difference in deterring additional aggression and kept it in a place where diplomacy could still work,” he said.

With RLP being home to the largest concentration of Americans outside the U.S., the augmenting of communication has become an indispensable asset in not only managing the KMC’s behemoth footprint, but also leveraging it in helping the influx of Ukrainians who’ve recently sought refuge in the area, said Ralf Leβmeister, Kaiserslautern county commissioner.

“Approximately 30,000 Ukrainian refugees are here in Rheinland-Pfalz,” said Leβmeister. “We’ve seen huge support from our communities in taking them in. The U.S. military, too, has been in regular communication with us, which is crucial in handling this crisis together. Thanks to the continued talks and cooperation with General Reed, we’ve been able to handle the crisis and get the refugees the support they need.”

In addition to speaking on developments in the Russia and Ukraine conflict, other topics discussed during the forum included updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, noise concerns and logistics related to the newly-announced construction of the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Medical Center, an almost $1 billion investment to replace the aging Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

With Reed’s time as the KMC commander coming to a close, though, the forum was tinged with a certain wistfulness, with many in attendance voicing their appreciation for the work done by not only Reed, but KMC military leadership as a whole.

"I've been here for 28 years and you didn't just ask for our input-we felt that it truly mattered," said Landstuhl's Mayor Dr. Degenhardt. "Meeting regularly as we have, taking care of this relationship through so many crises and standing on the same side of the response has made a difference."

Reed, too, closed the forum with words of thanks for the work U.S. military leadership and community leaders did throughout his tenure and underscored the importance of the GACO–something he said his successor will continue to abundantly use.

“If I can ask one favor of all of you, it’ll be to help the next KMC commander keep the momentum we’ve generated,” Reed said. “So our children and your children can understand that we are successful together.”