Dragon boating sparks German-American relations
Members of the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade team, the Lazy Dragons (center boat) paddle fiercely through the waters of Wiesbaden's Schiersteiner Hafen.

WIESBADEN, Germany - The original goal of getting Wiesbaden's American residents in on the fun of Dragon Boat racing during the Schiersteiner Hafenfest has been accomplished.

Now, six years later, not only are community members competing as their own team, some are also members of a German team and actively cultivating German and American relationships.

The Lazy Dragons -- 66th Military Intelligence Brigade's and several other community members -- competed in the regatta in the fun category against German dragon boaters July 13-14 as a part of the 65th annual harbor celebration.

"The sport is wonderful. The experience has been exciting and rewarding," said Mara Cornejo, 66th MI Brigade and team captain.

Gerd Stinner approached U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden in 2007 to build an American team to compete in the races and to hopefully inspire more participation from Americans as a way of deepening relations with their Wiesbaden hosts. More than half a decade later, community members are active in the sport year-round building friendships and seeing more of Germany.

"We feel a lot like we are a part of the German community," said Manuela Moortel, Central Texas College field representative, who said she and her daughter Katie were inspired to join after seeing the success of the team the year before.

The Moortels as well as several other Americans from the local community also compete during the dragon boating season with the German team Saubande in various competitions and venues around Germany.

"Once you get the hang of it, it's really great," said Manuela.

"It's a good adrenaline rush, especially the 250-meter races," said Katie.

"I jumped in with both feet," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Savell, 1st Military Intelligence Battalion, who said he was assigned in Wiesbaden in 2008-11 and ever since wanted to participate in the event. "We've made a lot of new friends. It's a great group of people who are involved in dragon boating."

Staff Sgt. Esperanza Collins, Dental Clinic noncommissioned officer-in-charge, said she was encouraged by her coworker Connie Plenge to join the team and at the lure of it being a good workout she was all in. And while the sport has been fun for Collins she said it was different than what she expected.

"I thought it would be like those rowing events you see during the Olympics, and it was totally not," she said. "But it has been really fun."

And while the athletes are serious about competition, life outside of the boat is a lot of fun.

"Dragon boating is an excuse for social hour," said Nikki Williams, who saw the event one year before and decided to take part. "It helps me feel like I'm a part of the German community."

"The German (dragon boaters) are warm and welcoming and many speak English too," said Katie.

And while the team did not improve on the previous year's success, its members enjoyed fellowship and socializing with their German competitors and teammates.

"We've made a lot of new friends," said Savell.

Though the big event of the harbor fest has passed, Cornejo said interested community members can still join to finish out the season and prepare for next season.

"The river is plentiful and big, and there are boats and paddle for everyone," she said, adding that many of the team will continue to train to compete in the ESWE Cup in September.

Interested individuals can contact Mara Cornejo at mil 337-7171 or civ (0611) 705-7171 or email mara.c.cornejo.civ@mail.mil; or Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Savell at mil 337-5846 or civ (0611) 705-5846.

Page last updated Thu July 18th, 2013 at 09:43