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AFRC Europe: Where Every Day Is a Holiday

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

GARMISCH, Germany, Feb. 19, 1998 – Imagine working at a place where every day is a holiday. That's the way it is for Marc J. Jannsen, operations manager at Armed Forces Recreation Center Europe.

"I love what I do," Jannsen said. "The AFRC motto is: 'We serve those who serve.' There's a sense of pride in serving people who put themselves on the line."

U.S. military come to AFRC Europe from deployments in Bosnia, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and other world hot spots, Jannsen said. "When we get our guests, we don't know where they're coming from, but we do know they need rest and relaxation so they can recoup and go on to do their mission."

AFRC Europe offers service members, DoD civilians and family members stationed in Europe rest and recuperation in two of southern Germany's most beautiful resort areas. AFRC guests can stay at American hotels and travel camps in Garmisch and Chiemsee and take advantage of a wealth of tours and outdoor activities.

AFRC Europe facilities are open to military, DoD civilians and family members assigned to U.S. European Command. They are also open to military retirees, reservists and National Guard members assigned to Europe, and NATO allies assigned to NATO or SHAPE headquarters.

For guests, as well as the AFRC staff of about 400, spending time amid the Bavarian Alps can be a rewarding adventure, Jannsen said. Garmisch is nestled beneath the Zugspitze, Germany's tallest peak. Chiemsee is set on the shores of Lake Chiemsee, Germany's largest inland lake. Both AFRC sites are less than 100 miles from Munich.

The Bavarian resorts are places where the air is always clean; there's no crime or pollution, and environmental protection is on everyone's agenda, Jannsen said.

"People here adhere to the laws and keep it clean. In these mountains it's against the law to go four-wheeling," he said. "Snowmobiles are not allowed. Motorboats are not allowed on the Eibsee Lake at the base of the Zugspitze. People's space is protected here. When you're up in the mountains walking with your family, you don't have to worry about some four-by-four come flying by."

AFRC offers economy too. A family of four, for example, can enjoy a week of skiing for about $1,000, Jannsen said. "A family can come down for a ski week package -- $225 for an adult, $195 for children 5 and up. That's five days of skiing, lift passes, instruction and equipment - skis, boots, poles, pants and jackets. It also includes transportation from the hotel to the slopes.

Leigh Plowman, AFRC recreation director, said about 3,000 people took the five-day ski program last year and another 2,000 or so took two-hour ski lessons.

"Garmisch is definitely the best skiing in Germany," Plowman said. "We've got great slopes for all ability levels. Chiemsee has good slopes as well within a 20-minute drive." AFRC skiers logged about 36,000 ski days last year, he said.

AFRC caters to the military, offering lessons in English and accepting U.S. dollars for lift tickets to the German slopes -- the Wank, the Hausberg, the Osterfelder and the Zugspitze.

Summer activities at the two resorts also draw visitors. Plowman said about 500 people took the five-day learn-to-golf program last summer. About 1,200 went white-water rafting and another 700 participated in such mountaineering sports as rock climbing.

AFRC hotels offer guests full service restaurants, bars, slot machines and 24-hour desk service. "For what they're getting here, it's a bargain," Jannsen said.

For E-1 to E-5s, rooms run about $54 per night, he said. There's no charge for young children, and hotel staff try to give families bigger rooms so they can put children on cots, he said. Room rates are based on visitors' pay grades. Comparable hotels on the local economy range from $80 to $100 a night, he said.

U.S. Army Maj. Randy Reinisch, 23rd Combat Equipment Company in Luxembourg, returned to Garmisch with his family for a week of skiing in mid-January.

"I took ski-week package here when I was a second lieutenant about 10 years ago," Reinisch said. This visit, he was accompanied by his wife, Laura, 10-year-old daughter Ashley and two sons, 3-year-old Zachary and 10-month-old Matthew.

It's unlikely the family of five would have gone skiing anywhere else, Laura Reinisch said. "We couldn't afford this if we had to pay commercial prices. We wouldn't even have considered it."

Along with higher prices, the language barrier at European resorts is also prohibitive, Reinisch said. "Here, everything is in English, so it's very convenient."

Air Force 1st Lt. Eric Isper, 127th Field Artillery Battalion, Babenhausen, Germany, along with his wife, Chris, 5-year-old Alex and 1 1/2-year-old Max, also went to Garmisch for a week of ski lessons.

"Everything is right here, you don't have to worry about looking for skis, or looking for lessons, looking for transportation," Isper said. "Here, you show up at the same place and whoever is doing your classes gets you the passes and takes you around."

U.S. Army Maj. Christopher Martin, 1st Infantry Division, Bamberg, Germany, and his wife, Carolyn, and two sons, 8-year-old Nolan and 13-year-old Ryan took the ski-week program in January. This was their third trip to Garmisch.

"We were in Garmisch last summer and we heard about some of the other tours," Martin said. "We enjoy coming here. This is our third time at the Von Steuben. We like the hotel and all the tours offered."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCycling through emerald green valleys surrounded by the Bavarian Alps is one of the attractions of American Forces Recreation Center Europe. AFRC Photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageFruhlingstrasse in Garmisch becomes a winter wonderland after a heavy snowfall. AFRC Photo  
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