An unidentified person fires a rifle at Kaiserslautern Rod & Gun Club. (Facebook)

An unidentified person fires a rifle at Kaiserslautern Rod & Gun Club. (Facebook)

Sources in Europe indicate to JQP that the Kaiserslautern Military Community’s (KMC) Rod & Gun Club at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is shutting its doors in early 2017. The KMC houses both Army and Air Force personnel.

The lingering question is why.

JQP reached out to Ramstein’s 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs office, and officials are adamant the club’s future remains under consideration.

“There is currently a study ongoing regarding the viability of sustaining the Kaiserslautern Rod and Gun Club operations. This study is still in the initial phases … in fact … officials just conducted a site visit to Baumholder (Rod and Gun Club) as part of this study today, and several courses of action will be prepared for leadership upon its completion,” said Lt. Col. Joel Harper, 86th Airlift Wing Chief of Public Affairs.

Kaiserslautern’s Rod & Gun Club is the largest facility of its kind in theater. The club provides an array of diverse activities including paintball, archery, skeet/trap shooting and rifle/pistol shooting. For those who are willing to undertake rigorous German import protocol and U.S. Army regulation requirements, personal weapons can also be stored at the club.

But while official statements say the club’s future is yet to be determined, sources are painting a different picture. Several members forwarded a canned e-mail from the club’s manager telling them they need to remove their stored weapons “as soon as possible” due to pending closure. The manager said the decision has been made to cease operations on or around Jan. 15, 2017, and all assets are to be removed no later than March 1, 2017.

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“I have spoken with the manager of the facility, and we agree that his e-mail may have created confusion,” Harper said. “Closure is an option in this study, but the study is not complete and no decisions have been made. It will take time to complete the study and to carefully walk through all possible options, and we do not intend to rush the process or choose a course of action prematurely.”

As members scratch their heads looking for answers, Ramstein’s leadership contends the future decision is being weighed on demand versus cost. The Club’s membership is the highest compared to other clubs in the region at 350 members. According to officials, that number may not warrant spending money to maintain the facility, lease a road owned by the German Forest Department and the cost to staff the club with employees.

Sources believe the decision to “cease operations” is politically motivated and has nothing to do with money whatsoever.

“They’re trying to ban Air Force personnel from having personally owned guns here without actually creating a regulation that bans guns,” one source said. “They’re just going to make it impossible to live on base and meet the regulations for keeping guns.”

Officials say decisions will be centered on budget concerns not politics. While officials say the club’s facility is in need of maintenance, sources indicate actual numbers are ambiguous.

Sources say the R&G Club lost a total of about $9 thousand this past year. However, the 86th FSS chose not to repair the pistol range, which was shutdown all year and historically produces about $65 thousand annually. The source contends with the pistol range open, it would likely have made a profit. We have also been hearing rumors that the closure decision package going to Ramstein’s commander states that repairing the pistol range will cost close to $500 thousand, however, estimated repair costs are closer to $98 thousand.

“We ask for understanding as we complete the study and carefully walk through all possible options,” Harper said. “Rumors, assumptions, and unfounded conclusions will not help us reach the best solution.”

The R&G club also provides U.S. military personnel to take the courses that allow them to own guns in Germany. To own guns you have to be a licensed hunter or sport shooter. Both licenses require courses, shooting qualifications, and in the case of sport shooters, proof that you have participated in a number of competitions each year. Without the R&G club, service members will not be able to take the courses to get the licenses, and the sport shooters will not be able to maintain currency.

Leadership’s lack of communication with club members is breading an atmosphere of angst and frustration. They simply want answers and to gain an understanding of why a sport they love so much is being taken away without even the courtesy of comment from leadership.

“This will destroy a tradition of US Military hunting that has existed in Germany since the end of WWII,” said one source.

“We’ve seen some of the discussions on social media, and we understand their concerns,” Harper said. “Unfortunately, the Club is in need of significant investment to bring up to standards, and there are also other factors we must consider. We hope to be able to keep the club open; however, we must be good stewards of our resources and we must balance operating expenses with customer revenue, changing demographics, etc.”

Although leadership isn’t directly communicating to club members or outlining the ‘other factors,’ telltale signs are everywhere, not to mention the manager’s e-mail outlining the club’s demise.

The first indicator is that the annual hunting course (on Ramstein’s 86th FSS page) has been cancelled. The rotating news banner also states they “have suspended pistol firing,” and clicking inside the retail shop shows the club’s rental pistols are now for sale at a steep discount. The rotating banner also states that the main entrance is now closed, and mentions bad road conditions for the new entrance. This is due to the new entrance being an unpaved German forestry road. It’s rumored leadership shutdown the main gate so personnel would use the forestry road, which would cause the German Forestry to complain about club patrons destroying the road so that leadership would have more fodder for shutting the club down.

There is no doubt club patrons are passionate about the facility. It also appears leadership is equally passionate about making a decision based on facts and hard numbers. And while downward communication to date has been non-existent, leadership told JQP that’s about to change.

“The Rod and Gun Club has a passionate customer base with a rich history,” Harper said. “We are taking steps to clarify the matter with our customers.”

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