Written by Capt. Evan Peloquin, Sgt. Brandon Carlisle, Sgt. William Camp, 41st Field Artillery Brigade, 7th Army Training Command


GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Franz Zeilmann has been the cornerstone for the U.S. Army and German community relations for the past 36 years, helping to build relationships between U.S. service members and German citizens.

Zeilmann serves as the Community and Media Relations Specialist at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria where he has been building relationships for the past 28 years in the public affairs office.

Before working for USAG Bavaria, he worked as a mechanic and various other positions for the U.S. Army in Grafenwoehr and Vilseck.

"Zeilmann has helped build over 55 partnerships between the U.S. Army and German towns, police departments, fire departments and schools," said Nathan Van Schaik, chief of public affairs at USAG Bavaria. Van Schaik has been a friend and colleague of Zeilmann for the past six years.

Zielmann has given over 1,000 on-post tours and is friends with all the mayors in the USAG Bavaria area of operations. He also regularly works with the media to help tell the U.S. Army story, according to Van Schaik.

"He is the pioneer of what I call 'Beer Garden Diplomacy,'" Van Schaik said, describing it as Zeilmann's unique ability to build relationships and resolve problems in a Bavarian setting through friendly means.

When asked about 'Beer Garden Diplomacy,' Zeilmann said it means getting together in a loose, relaxed atmosphere regardless of status for service members, their families and members of the community.

Zeilmann has been shaped by his selfless dedication to service members. He even rents part of his own home to service members, said Van Schaik.

"I see Soldiers as more than just people in uniform," said Zeilmann. "I now see a human person behind that uniform."

Zeilmann said that he wants to express how his view of the U.S. Army changed, and to share that with the German population.

Zeilmann stated that he had been shaped and educated by his mentors to include William Yankers (deceased) when he started working in the Public Affairs Office in 1991. It was because of the education, freedom and trust to do the job that Zeilmann excelled in public affairs.

"When Soldiers leave Germany, they should have at least one phone number of a friend to call for when they come back," said Zeilmann.