International forces celebrate camaraderie at ‘NATO beer maneuver’

The Soldier Wasen, or “NATO Beer Maneuver,” has a long tradition in Stuttgart. Back in 1974, a group of international soldiers were invited to the Cannstatter Wasen fest grounds to enjoy hearty Swabian food and German beer.

The practice has continued ever since.

This year, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from the Stuttgart military community met their German and French counterparts for the 37th Soldier Wasen on Sept. 26 at the Fürstenberg beer tent to celebrate the long-standing military event.

“This is an amazing opportunity to strengthen the relationship with our German comrades and celebrate together,” said Lance Cpl. Keegan Crawford, a first-time guest to the Soldier Wasen, who attended the fest with 25 fellow Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Europe and U.S. Marine Corps Africa.

More than 3,300 Soldiers from Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Bavaria and the German/French Brigade in Emmendingen attended the event. The Stuttgart military community was represented by 290 service members, along with Soldiers from Mannheim, Heidelberg and Ansbach.

Peter Brandl, fest tent owner, welcomed the troops to the Fürstenberg tent and wished them a memorable time at this year’s Soldier Wasen.

Col. Franz Arnold, state command Baden-Württemberg commander, along with Col. Carl D. Bird, U.S.  Army Garrison Stuttgart commander, emphasized the importance of the event to create a strong bond between the international soldiers.

Bird presented Arnold and Brandl with a commander’s coin and personally thanked them for inviting the U.S. Forces to the military outing. “The Soldier Wasen celebrates the German-American friendship and camaraderie between our nations,” Bird said.

The service members enjoyed the  afternoon with “Göckele,” or grilled chicken, beer and interaction with their German and French brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

“It’s so much fun here. The harmony between the Germans and Americans is simply great,” said Pfc. Steven Liebl, a German soldier stationed in Ummendorf. Liebl, along with his comrades,  exchanged patches, flags, name tags, berets,and even entire uniforms with the Americans during the fest.

The “Fetzentaler” band entertained the crowd with German folk music, party, country and rock tunes, while many of the soldiers stood on the beer benches, singing and dancing.

While celebrating, the service members joined together in saying: “ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit” (cheers to the good times), to toast to camaraderie, friendship and tradition.