By Brittany Carlson, Belvoir EagleOctober 10, 2013
Fort Belvoir's Fremont Field transformed into a scene from Munich, Germany last weekend for the 18th Annual Oktoberfest, hosted by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Oct. 3-6.
Half of the field featured carnival rides and food, while the other half included traditional straw-strewn tents for dancing to German music, and stalls that sold more traditional Bavarian pretzels and potato pancakes.
"We've been coming every year for the last several years just to come out and enjoy the German music since we lived in Germany for three years," said Ed Robinson, an Army retiree and Vietnam veteran.
While the Freistadt Alte Kameraden Band performed Oct. 6, Robinson brought his adult granddaughter out on the floor to dance.
"I taught her the polka when she was a little girl," he said.
Many fest visitors wore German "lederhosen" (leather pants) and "dirdles" (Alpine costume dresses) to relive memories of being stationed in Germany.
"We just came from Germany a little bit ago, so in keeping with the Oktoberfest tradition, we might as well wear the lederhosen," said Sgt. Michael Koukaras, Warrior Transition Battalion, who wore the traditional garb to the fest Oct. 5. "It exposes the community to different cultures that they wouldn't ordinarily experience."
Oktoberfest is also Fort Belvoir leadership's chance to invite the entire local community in to celebrate long-term partnerships, as well as their German military counterparts to celebrate their long-term working relationships with the American military.
Garrison leaders invited members of the German Armed Forces, community partners and commercial sponsors to the annual keg-tapping ceremony under the main fest tent, Oct.4. This year's title sponsor was Sheehy Autostores.
"This event gives us an opportunity to celebrate and strengthen our partnership with Fort Belvoir, the German Armed Forces and our surrounding communities," said Col. Gregory D. Gadson, Fort Belvoir garrison commander. "It's important to strengthen those bonds, so we take time to support each other at this event."
Commander of the German Armed Forces for the United States and Canada, Brig. Gen. Hasso Koertge, added that Fort Belvoir's Oktoberfest highlights the many things that American and German forces accomplish together.
"The American forces and the German Armed Forces work together in peace and in action. This evening, which is a traditional evening by now, just underlines how we work together," he said.
After the keg-tapping, the Luftwaffenmusikkorps 2 -- the German Air Force Band -- performed German fest music, while the Alt-Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein dance group performed cultural German dances, including the Maypole dance, wood-chopper's dance, horse-shoeing dance and "schuhplatter" (shoe-slapping) routines.
"This is part of our heritage. Everything we do is authentic," said Joe Consolo, president of the dance group. "This is all handed down over hundreds of years from Germany."
Oktoberfest is an annual highlight for German Armed Forces Command, said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Kleinhenz.
"It means mingling with friends, having a good time, and of course I'm enjoying the German beer. It reminds me of my homeland," he said.
The event also allows members of both military forces to get to know each other better, Kleinhenz added.
"We already work on a daily basis together. It's always good to go further than that and also sit together and mingle together in the evenings. It's actually enhancing your abilities to work with each other," he said.
Some of Fort Belvoir's long-term district partners attend Oktoberfest annually to show their support.
"I try to make this a regular on my schedule," said Pat Harrity, Springfield District Supervisor. "This is a great way for the whole Family to come and enjoy Fort Belvoir, especially in these difficult times. It's just one more of the ways that we can bring Fort Belvoir closer to the community."
Gerry Hyland, Mount Vernon District Supervisor, has been in office 25 years and has been attending Fort Belvoir's Oktoberfest since its inception.
"This has always been a wonderful opportunity for people in the community to join folks on base for a social opportunity and fun time," he said. "I love coming here."
Hyland added that Oktoberfest allows community members to socialize away from board meetings and problem solving committees.
"This is an event that allows people to let their hair down and get to know each other socially," Hyland said. "It adds another dimension to good relations between Fort Belvoir and the community. I think it's wonderful that the post opens up its doors."