American hunters recognized through German time-honored tradition
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany (July 31, 2014) -- After months of preparation, rigorous testing and three final exams, three Schläge -- or strokes of a hunting knife -- and an oath ushered students into the exclusive class of Jungjäger -- hunting apprentices.

Fifteen Americans received their hunting certificates, or Jägerbriefe, and were inducted into the Jaegerschaft Wiesbaden at a ceremony held at the historic Jagdschloss Platte here, Friday. They completed Outdoor Recreation's three-month Hunting Course and passed written, oral and shooting tests required to own a hunting license in Germany.

"It is an honor to be among the Jungjäger," said Dr. Robert Schloesser, greeting them after the ceremony. "I still have my Jägerbrief from 1961. I'm proud of you guys, and you're lucky to be able to take advantage of the hunting tradition here in Germany."

The Jägerschlag is an initiation ceremony for new hunters in Germany that traces its roots back to the Middle Ages. This solemn rite of passage is closely tied to a code of ethics, according to Steve Steininger, hunting coordinator.

The first stroke anoints the Jäger as a hunter; the second stroke signifies granting the strength to always conduct the hunt righteously; and the third stroke binds the Jäger to never stray from the Hunter's Code of Honor.

Then the Jäger removes his or her hunting hat and places a branch in it, saying "Waidmannsdank," a "thank you" in response to the salutation "Waidmannsheil" ("good hunting"). The Jäger received a hunting knife as a gift -- but gave a euro in exchange, as free knives are considered bad luck. Finally, they drank from a large chalice of red wine, a nod to Germany's Catholic roots.

Despite the somber tone of the ceremony, many couldn't resist smiling.

"Right now I'm just excited and glad this is over with," said Britni Sonntag, who had never hunted before she moved to Germany. "It's all brand new to me."

Father and son Mike and Daniel Tedesco also were new to hunting, and Mike even had a fear of guns when they signed up for the course to "do something together" before Daniel heads to the United States. They also wanted to integrate into the German community better.

"We had no idea how important hunting is to the German community. It's not about sportsmanship, it's about conservation. I would definitely recommend this course," said Mike.

"It's like a secret fraternity, this informal sense of nobility," added Daniel.

Col. Mary Martin, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Rocco also attended to witness the ceremony and congratulate the Jungjäger.

The next Hunting Course is offered Aug. 12 through Oct. 18. Contact Outdoor Recreation at mil 337-5760 or civ (0611) 705-5760, for details.

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