Soldiers’ fest unites international forces

Service members of all branches of service serving in Stuttgart, Germany march together to meet their international comrades for “Soldatenwasen,” or Soldiers’ Wasen Day at the Cannstatter Wasen fest grounds, Sept. 26, 2016. Photo by Kevin S. Abel.

By Laura Cambiago Spangler
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from the Stuttgart military community met their German counterparts in uniform on Sept. 26 on the capital’s fest grounds, Cannstatter Wasen, for “Soldatenwasen,” or Soldiers’ Wasen Day. The event is a unique tradition to Stuttgart’s Cannstatter Volksfest dating back 41 years.

Soldatenwasen was initiated in 1975 by beer tent owners Gerd and Hans Atz, who expressed their support for the local troops’ morale by offering two mugs of beer and a “Göckele,” or half chicken to every attending service member of Theodor Heuss Barracks in Stuttgart.

Two years later, invitations were extended to the U.S. Forces, and in 1982, French and Canadian military units stationed in Baden-Württemberg also joined in the celebration.

International service members try each others hats and exchange patches during the annual “Soldatenwasen,” or Soldiers’ Wasen Day, Sept. 26, 2016 at the Cannstatter Wasen fest grounds in Stuttgart. Photo by Kevin S. Abel.

Since 2007, this festive “joint exercise” has been organized by the German Army State Command Baden-Württemberg, which in 2008 recognized the long-time host of the Stuttgart military, Alexander Laub, with a golden Cross of Honor for his long-standing support through Soldatenwasen, as well as charitable donations to the German Military Musical Corps’ for research on Multiple Sclerosis.

The baton was then passed on to Peter Brandl, owner of the Fürstenberg tent, who has been carrying on the tradition since 2009. On Sept 26, German Army State Commander Col. Dieter Bohnert acknowledged Brandl’s hospitality with a framed award for “Special Operations,” while U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Commander Col. Glenn K. Dickenson presented him with the prized commander’s coin.

Following tradition, the two commanders jointly welcomed the troops from the tent’s stage. For the first time, though, there was also an “exchange of languages” that raised enthusiasm from all sides. Bohnert easily switched back and forth from German to English, while Dickenson addressed host nation troops in their mother tongue.

“This is symbolic of how we work together as one team,” Dickenson said.

Typically, a large gathering of multinational forces means that a collaborative military training is taking place. This annual tradition, instead, focuses on fostering a spirit of camaraderie among as many as 4,000 international service members.

View more photos on USAG Stuttgart’s Flickr, here.