By Mr. Simon Hupfer (Franconian News)June 27, 2013
BAMBERG, Germany -- Silence fell when U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg commander Lt. Col. Michelle L. Bienias took the podium to deliver her speech at a reception hosted by the city of Bamberg. The city and county of Bamberg had invited their American neighbors to the traditional German-American friendship week event. Now, the host nation representatives awaited the remarks of Bamberg's last garrison commander, whose mission it is to bring the almost 70-year-long partnership to an end, clear the military post and hand the garrison keys back to the German federal government.
"Even though Warner Barracks is closing, we will never forget the hospitality, the support and the friendship our Soldiers and Families have experienced here," Bienias said. "Everybody will keep a place for this beautiful city and its people in their heart."
Bamberg's Lord Mayor Andreas Starke congratulated the garrison commander on a successful year of command; he stated how much the city regrets the decision to close the U.S. facilities. Starke commemorated Bamberg's very first commander, Nathan Preston, who arrived as a frontline warrior in 1945 and returned to Bamberg after he ended his military career in 1969. Preston called himself a Bamberg citizen and is buried at Bamberg's cemetery, where an American flag has flown continuously since his passing.
"There was a time when we had 180 marriages a year between German women and American men at our marriage registration office," Starke said, which would explain the high number of Bamberg's single German male population, he said with a smile.
According to Starke, 1001 children were born between 2005 and 2013 at Bamberg's hospital, "with quite some American participation," -- more proof of a partnership between Bamberg and the U.S. forces.
Also during German-American friendship week, 75 enlisted Soldiers were invited to a city tour and dinner at Bamberg's Greifenklau beer garden. Traditionally, the Soldier who is newest to Bamberg taps the beer keg. It took Pvt. Robert Sutfin from Montezuma, Iowa, three careful hammer strokes to get everybody started with the Bamberg beer.
"I enjoy being stationed in Bamberg," Sutfin said, who has been here since January. He added that the only thing missing was a good hamburger place.
Next year the county and city of Bamberg will celebrate German-American friendship week for one last time before the garrison closes in September 2014. Until then, Starke wished that all future challenges will be resolved -- as usual - in friendly cooperation.