People, Partners, Projects: It's about communication
By Carol Davis
WIESBADEN, Germany — Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District and dozens of their customers came together for the district's second annual Customer Partnering Workshop Jan. 25 at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
More than 50 customers from the Departments of Public Works, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, and other agencies discussed district processes, German construction policies, and environmental practices. The workshop's topics were generated from the 2011 customer service survey responses and from last year's workshop.
In his opening statement, Col. D. Peter Helmlinger, district commander, said the workshop was an opportunity for the partners to gain a better understanding of each other, our needs and our goals. He said it was his vision for the district to deliver what the customer needs on time, on budget and on scope.
"The first step to satisfying the customer is understanding their needs. That takes good communication," Helmlinger said. "That's why we are all here."
The workshop started with a progress report about last year's take a ways such as project management plans, and customer visibility and involvement.
Col. Brad Dunbar, U.S. Army Health Facilities Planning Agency's medical program manager, said he liked the continuity of presentations from the previous year's workshop to this one.
"The district provided a good wrap up on the solutions to last year's issues," Dunbar said. "Additionally, I really appreciated their honesty in explaining the progress made on tougher issues that haven't been resolved yet."
Dunbar said the workshop continues to be a valuable tool in building a better understanding of the Corps. He said there are three primary reasons he will continue to come -- to track the district's progress on the issues, to network with the district and other customers, and lastly, to hear the technical presentations.
Lt. Col. Randy Bolz, the district's force protection program manager, explained the new Access Control Points technology standards for Europe.
"Currently over 40 installations across Europe have been upgraded," Bolz said. "The current standards are intended to defeat nearly every threat possible."
He said in an effort to provide the right protection at the right location, the standards are being revised to allow local commanders the ability to design the ACP based on their local threat assessment. This approach provides a significant cost savings by adjusting the level of protection locally rather than on an all encompassing high level set by Army for locations.
Good stewardship of people, environment and budget was a recurring theme during the workshop.
Philip Cohen, Planning Section chief, said according to the Army, many installations are focusing on environmental stewardship by using new technologies and programs, but currently the Army's focus is for installations to look towards energy security.
According to Cohen, energy security allows an installation to produce and reuse the energy it needs for itself. He said by definition, environmental stewardship is about taking advantage of emerging green, clean, and renewable technology to lower energy cost -- which is important, but for the Army, energy self-sufficiency is more pivotal. He said the Army wants installations to explore new energy back-up systems in the event of a loss of power.
"During a natural or man-made disaster, blackouts are very costly -- extremely expensive, so energy self-sufficiency is a driving force," Cohen said. "However, running a very close second to self-sufficiency is the need to reduce energy cost, and that's where Net Zero, solar power and renewable energy come into play."
Net-Zero is defined as an installation that produces as much energy as it uses throughout a year.
"Net Zero equals energy security which equals self sufficiency for an installation," Cohen said. "Net Zero is about good stewardship."
Manfred Rieck, Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division chief in Grafenwöhr, said hearing about Net Zero and other energy conservation technologies made the workshop interesting, but they are not the only reasons he attends.
"It was good to get an insight into the Corps, how they operate, solve problems and use technology," Rieck said. "The workshop provides a once-a-year chance to meet with people from the Corps, to discuss issues and really hear each other's concerns -- face-to-face."
During closing remarks, Helmlinger summed up the conference by reiterating the importance of communicating and working together to solve any challenges that might come up.
Helmlinger said we want to give our customers the best service possible and "communication is the key."