By Mark Iacampo, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Public AffairsOctober 4, 2013
HOHENFELS, Germany -- The Hohenfels Fall Strong Team Expo brought together more than 40 organizations from within the garrison and the surrounding German communities to showcase a wide array of positive and constructive activities available for Hohenfels military community members, Oct. 2.
"Strong teams isn't just a moniker," explained Col. John G. Norris, Joint Multinational Readiness Center commander. "(It's) a philosophical approach to how we're strengthening our community and making our community more resilient."
Norris highlighted some of what he called 'grass roots' examples of clubs and activities that were started by individual initiatives and have grown into vibrant community organizations, such as the Hohenfels Softball League and the 'Painting with Friends' classes.
"There is something in this building for everyone … a positive, constructive activity that people can invest in," Norris said.
While some of the organizations represented well-known clubs such as the Boy Scouts of America, others are unique to Hohenfels, such as Paradise Blend which performs at several functions throughout the year including the community's Asian Pacific American Heritage celebration in May.
"This is something that we've put together where people from different cultures can come and express the way they feel through dancing and music," said member Talaitupu Ueligitone. The group's repertoire includes dances from a variety of cultures and Ueligitone said they'd love to add more.
"If there's someone who can teach it, we'd love to dance it," she said.
Another example of a 'home-grown group,' the 'Gathering of Nerds Gaming Group' is so new that their very first meeting was scheduled the same evening as the Expo. Meeting Wednesdays at the Zone, the group will play a variety of board games, card games, role-playing pen and paper games such as 'Dungeons and Dragons,' as well as fantasy battle games such as 'War Hammer.'
"I'm just trying to get people together and give them an area where they can play the games they normally play in their rooms, so they can enlarge the community of people they're playing with and find new people who are interested in the games they're already playing," said founder Jason Ensign.
Some groups combine a social context with a spotlight on service, such as the Hohenfels Community Spouses Club which funnels its fundraising money back into the community through donations and grants, or the Hohenfels Booster Club and its sister group, the Parents-Teachers Organization which focuses on supporting the Hohenfels Middle/High School.
There were even groups focused on a single event, such as the 2014 International Four Day Marches Nijmegen, a four day, 140 kilometer trek through the Netherlands. Begun in 1909 as a way to promote health and fitness, the march has become the largest event of its kind in the world. Second Lt. Douglas Somoza was part of a team from Cherokee Co., 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, who competed in 2013, and he's recruiting a team to hit the trail again next July.
"Last year, the U.S. had the highest dropout rate of any military team," Somoza said. "So we want people to come out and actually do a train up so we have more people finish."
Community members don't need to restrict their activities to on-post teams. Ten organizations from the surrounding German communities also attended the Expo seeking participants.
"Our strong teams extend beyond our military community to the surrounding communities," said Lt. Col. John J. Strange Jr., U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels commander, pointing out that all the wood for the recent HMHS bonfire was donated by the German Department of Forestry.
The Kolping Youth Brass Band Hohenfels is an orchestra consisting of musicians from Hohenfels and the surrounding area. The 'youth' part of their name is somewhat of a misnomer, though, as members range in age from nine to 49.
"We just want to share our music," said Dennis Bartow, one of three Americans in the 30 member band. The band meets weekly and plays concerts at various Volksfests, church services and community events.
Also on hand was the Parsberg Dance Studio, which teaches classes in jazz, hip-hop, ballet and more for children and adults, as well as the Neumark Volkshochschule which offers hundreds of classes including an immersion course in German language.
The Strong Team Expo proved beyond a doubt that whether community members are interested in sports, chess, cultural experiences, travel or virtually anything else, there is a group on Hohenfels ready to share that passion.
"And if you're still looking for a strong team," said Strange, "look to the person to your left, to the person on your right, and make your own strong team."