BAMBERG, Germany (Sept. 16, 2014) -- After nearly 70 years of American Soldiers in Bamberg, Germany, the U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg colors were cased and the American flag was lowered for the final time Sept. 12, 2014.
Kathleen Y. Marin, Installation Management Command Europe region director, and Col. Christopher M. Benson, USAG Ansbach commander, spoke at the ceremony, which was held in front of the USAG Bamberg headquarters building.
"While we close this garrison today, the U.S. relationship with Bamberg does not end," said Marin. "It will carry on through the good will of the Americans who have chosen to settle down in Bamberg after their service with the Army ended. But more importantly, our relationship continues through the thousands of local employees from the surrounding area who have worked at Bamberg, or the hundreds of thousands of American Soldiers and their Families who have lived here. It has been a home away from home."
Bamberg became home to the U.S. Army in April, 1945, when U.S. Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division and 45th Infantry Division declared the city liberated after a short fight toward the end of World War II. Since then, the garrison has hosted the U.S. Constabulary, the 1st Infantry Division and thousands of Soldiers and Family members, and garrison-employed U.S. civilian and local national employees.
Through the nearly seven decades, many Americans have made their lives in Bamberg, and many Americans are also native to Bamberg, as Marin pointed out.
"Just as John F. Kennedy famously declared that he was a Berliner, thousands of Americans can officially claim they are Bambergers, as certified on their birth certificates," said Marin.
"This ceremony honors many decades of partnership between the United States Army, the city of Bamberg and its surrounding towns and villages," said Benson. "Bamberg has long been home to Americans, and leaving it is particularly hard because of the way you, the citizens of Bamberg, have welcomed us into your hearts and homes."
The closure of USAG Bamberg is the first of two in two weeks within Germany's Franconian region. USAG Schweinfurt is scheduled to hold a closure ceremony Friday.
"Our nation has asked us to conserve resources in this challenging time in both our countries' histories, and we have accepted this challenge at garrisons across Europe -- in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy," said Marin. "As part of this transition, service members, their Families, and the civil servants of many installations have been asked to fulfill the call of selfless service, which is the very essence of duty."
Hundreds of attendees at the ceremony watched the symbolic process of casing the garrison colors and lowering the American flag for the final time. Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, garrison commander at Fort Drum, New York, and former garrison commander at USAG Bamberg; Lt. Col. Michelle Bienias, the final on-location commander of USAG Bamberg; Benson, as the final commander of USAG Bamberg; and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Kiefer, USAG Ansbach command sergeant major, cased the colors for the final time. A team of USAG Ansbach Soldiers lowered the flag for the final time.
"While our garrison colors will be sent to the Institute of Heraldry in the United States, when we retire the American colors, they will remain and be presented as a gift to the city of Bamberg and its wonderful citizens," said Benson. "While we can never fully repay you for your kindness and generosity, we hope that this flag will always serve as a reminder of our gratitude and friendship."
Terri Hofstetter, who was a special events coordinator with USAG Bamberg's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and a civilian personnel officer, said it was "very heartwarming" to be at the ceremony.
"It was good to see old friends," said Hofstetter. "I was surprised I didn't cry, but there were a lot of happy memories. It felt good to see so many people here, coming out."
Hofstetter said she would miss the community, the people and her coworkers.
"It was a good community," said Hofstetter. "I felt like it was a great team."
Brad Cline, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation manager in USAG Bamberg, had been at Bamberg for 20 years. With the garrison closing, Cline will move to and work in Ansbach.
"It's given me a boost to do something different," said Cline. "It is sad. It's a great community. … I'll always remember this place, and it will remain in my heart, and I'll always come back to visit."