Info Expo expands Soldiers' horizons
December 17, 2012
VILSECK, Germany -- After living somewhere for more than a few months, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. Fun activities can become routine while the impetus to seek out new ones dwindles.
U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr sought to end this entertainment stagnation with its first Info Expo at the Multipurpose Building, here, Dec. 13.
The Expo showcased in one central location athletic, educational and recreational opportunities on and off post, so Soldiers could see what's out there without having to find it on their own.
"If you bring it all under one roof, you can't help but stumble on the information," said Audre Binder, director of Family and Moral, Welfare and Recreation, which played a major role in organizing the event.
"We're bringing the horse to water," added Binder.
Information and interactive displays from more than 50 vendors lined four rooms. The most popular booths entertained the Soldiers while proffering their wares.
Soldiers swarmed the Warrior Zone to play poker and video games, and the FMWR booths to test their expertise at shooting and bowling simulators. The souped-up cars on display for the American-European Motorsports Car Club drew auto enthusiasts who used their phones to snap pictures of engines.
The Expo's hands-on approach seduced Soldiers who otherwise expect information in the form of brochures and rehearsed spiels from vendors. Pfc. William Krebaum, Headquarters and Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, valued the interactive booths, such as the shooting simulator, the most.
"It's great," he said, fresh off his turn at the simulator. "I get to get away from work and do stuff like this."
In addition to letting loose, Soldiers appreciated the one-stop access to information the Expo provided.
"It's very good. I've been to one in my other unit and it wasn't as good as this one," said Sgt. Emmanuel Owusu, 15th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade. Owusu, who wants to get a degree, particularly liked the easy access to the colleges. "It's good to talk to everyone at once."
While most of these programs have been established in the community for years, multiple advertising venues muddle the flow of information, making it harder to get the word out. But, with all its information visible and accessible, the Expo allowed Soldiers to discover new clubs, programs and even activities in nearby cities.
Without ever leaving Bavaria, sports fans learned they can pick up hunting, try out for an All-Army sports team or the Grafenwoehr Griffins football team. They can attempt a boxing invitational, or spend the winter months on skis, a snowboard or airboard -- a grown-up, hyper-controlled sled.
Hams can find a stage at Grafenwoehr Performing Arts Center, while music-lovers can listen to jazz at the Bistrot Paris in Weiden. And, those wishing to better themselves can volunteer to coach sports teams for Child, Youth and School Services, apply for Special Forces or earn a degree with one of the higher ed. institutions.
Even with this store of resources and throngs of canvassing peers, Soldiers still found the Expo easy to navigate.
Sgt. Daniel Jungkeit, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, thought the Expo would be too overwhelming. He was pleasantly surprised.
"Being able to go around and hit every booth is nice," he said, after learning how to rent skis and snowboards with Outdoor Recreation.
The vendors also felt the benefit of easy access to Soldiers looking for new off-duty pursuits. Representatives from CYSS, Special Forces recruiting, the Grafenwoehr Griffin football team and even the Flossenburg Concentration Camp, enjoyed a flux of people interested in signing up, volunteering or visiting.
For Serge Kearse, chief of sports and fitness operations, the Expo proved beneficial in publicizing All-Army sports, a league for "Soldier athletes ready to compete at the next level."
"It's great to be able to share this info to help the Soldiers better themselves," Kearse said.