GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – The 41st Field Artillery Brigade raised a Maypole in front of their command building on Grafenwoehr Training Area April 29, 2022.
They did so not just to symbolize the return of the summer, but to reaffirm their commitment to their partner communities in the surrounding Bavarian countryside.
“This ceremony is three years in the making”, said 41st FAB Commander Col. Daniel Miller. “This represents, to me, not just the return of summer, but a return to some normalcy in the midst of the pandemic.”
There were plans to host a Maypole celebration in 2019, when the 41st FAB was originally activated, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from observing the holiday.
Maypole, or “Maibaum” in German, dates back to the 16th century and is celebrated in many places across Europe, but nowhere is it more cherished than here in Bavaria. The tradition centers on the raising of a large, decorated tree trunk in the town center followed by traditional Bavarian festivities, to include beer and pretzels.
With the assistance of the Grafenwoehr Fire Department, local mayors and representatives joined in raising the Maypole alongside their counterparts in the 41st FAB’s leadership. Many of the firefighters also work with the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Fire Department on post. The two fire departments have shared a relationship since 1950.
“We have always supported one another,” said Grafenwoehr Fire Department Chief Alexander Richter. “It is a great honor for us to show our American guests our distinct Bavarian traditions and it was wonderful to see that [they] value and celebrate these traditions as well.”
41st FAB and its subordinate commands have been paired with representatives in surrounding towns. Miller’s counterpart is Grafenwoehr Mayor Edgar Knobloch. The 589th Brigade Support Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Beth Luther, is paired with the Mayor of Pressath Barnhardt Stangl. The effort was organized by U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria and the 7th Army Training Command and each partnership was approved by the city council in each town.
“It is important that we express our friendship through fests and traditions like [Maypole]. It is great to be able to have an event like this after two years of Covid. Being able to meet people, talk to people and be among friends and celebrate is very special to me,” said Pressath Mayor Barnhardt Stangl.
After the Maypole was raised, it was decorated with unit insignias and seals of the local government to represent the relationship between the two. Meanwhile, friends and family of the 41st FAB enjoyed beer and pretzels provided by the local Beer Garden and restaurant Zum Adler.
“One of the things that Bavaria does best is strive to make their [homes] a home away from home for U.S. soldiers.” said Miller. “Sharing in their traditions, with their support creates the very feeling that makes our partnership a community.”