By Holly DeCarlo-White
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office
Germans in the surrounding area are often curious as to what goes on at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart installations located in their towns.
The USAG Stuttgart Community Relations office strives to demystify curiosities with cultural exchange programs and tours of the installations to interested local community members and local schools.
The cultural exchange program between Böblingen Elementary/Middle School and the Max-Planck Gymnasium, located in Böblingen, began this past school year when students from Jennifer L’Esperance’s fourth-grade class expressed interest in making cultural connections beyond the front gate.
Stephanie Cleaton, the garrison’s community relations specialist, connected with the German school in Böblingen to schedule an exchange so students could experience each other’s environments and demonstrate how parallel they really are.
“The [Max-Planck Gymnasium] class visited Böblingen Elementary School and were welcomed by a very excited fourth-grade class. The students prepared a presentation, conducted interviews with each other, wrote articles about similarities and differences between students and schools, and truly enjoyed their time together. The BEMS class visited Max-Planck Gymnasium, where the German students provided them the German school experience,” said Brian Pappas, a USAG Stuttgart school liaison officer.
The latest tour occurred in July with two Max-Planck-Gymnasium teachers, Tina Röhnert and Sarah Kloess, and a class of 30 10th-grade high school students. The class attended a walking tour of Panzer Kaserne, a visit to the United Service Organizations and the Exchange, followed by bowling and lunch at the Galaxy Bowling and Entertainment Center.
Each visitation is tailored to meet teacher and class interests.
Röhnert said she found the experience uncomplicated and extremely pleasant in coordinating with the garrison.
“She (Cleaton) manages to bridge the gap between the base and my students’ realities outside. Ms. Cleaton is always willing to give you advice and to respect the students’ demands, so everyone can find the best way of enjoying the experience,” Röhnert said.
“The program allows students to ask questions and most importantly, shows them the human side of the U.S. military community in Stuttgart. Americans are friendly people who care about the history, environment and community in which we all live,” Cleaton said.
Several students expressed, a positive interest in seeing how different people live, finding the base larger than they had expected, noticing the difference in currency using the U.S. dollar versus the euro.
“When talking to my students in class after the school trip, the 10th graders pointed out that they have never thought about the special situation the Soldiers are in and that they are surprised how strong the community at the base is. They are now interested in and open for more contact to American citizens,” Röhnert said.
USAG Stuttgart Community Relations, the School Liaison Office and Max-Planck Gymnasium hope to continue these and partnerships in the next school year.
“The addition of Stuttgart High School and Patch Elementary School to Panzer Kaserne will increase opportunities for building friendships with our neighbors outside the gate.” Pappas said.