STUTTGART, Germany -- Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from the Stuttgart military community met their German and French counterparts in uniform on Sept. 27 in downtown Stuttgart.

Normally, a gathering of allied forces means that a collaborative military training is taking place.

This time, they gathered not to focus on military training strategies, but to celebrate the camaraderie between the armed forces at the 36th Soldaten Wasen, or Soldier's Fest.

Exercises are often identified by a unique code name - and so was this military operation.

The "NATO Beer Maneuver" wasn't located on a battlefield, but in the FAfA1/4rstenberg beer tent at the Cannstatter Volksfest.

"It's all about the great camaraderie with our NATO forces. We are here to intermingle, have a good time and to enjoy the German tradition," said Senior Master Sgt. Ruel Rafi, who attended the fest with 45 fellow servicemembers from U.S. Africa Command.

This year, 3,200 Soldiers from Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz and the German/French Brigade in Emmendingen attended the event. The Stuttgart military community was represented by 250 service members, including Soldiers from Mannheim and Ansbach.

The Soldier's Fest has been a tradition since 1974. International soldiers are invited to the fest each year to enjoy hearty Swabian food and German beer.

As soon as Peter Brandl, fest tent owner, wished the soldiers "Guten Durst" (good thirst), "Guten Appetit" (good appetite) and "einige gute Stunden" (a good time), grilled chicken and beer were served.

Besides enjoying food and drinks, the American Soldiers befriended servicemembers from other countries and exchanged pieces of their uniforms.

"C'est super," said Adjutant Stephane Labrousse, a French soldier from the German/French Brigade in Emmendingen.

The Fetzenthaler band filled the fest tent with German folk music, along with party, country and rock tunes. Many Soldiers stood on the beer benches to sing and dance with their international comrades.

"The camaraderie with the American Soldiers is simply great. Here, we are able to share our experiences and make new friends," said Cpl. Niklas Bayer, a German soldier stationed in Hartheim, while exchanging name tags and patches with American Soldiers.

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Commander Col. Carl D. Bird personally thanked Brandl with a garrison coin.

"The Soldier's Fest is a great event for German-American friendship. It's important for our Soldiers to engage with their allied brothers and sisters to establish long-term relationships," Bird said.

Before the fest ended, the service members joined together in saying: "Hip Hip Hurra," "Hip Hip Hurra," "Hip Hip Hurra."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16