By Staff Sgt. Patricia Deal, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, Public AffairsNovember 29, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas --The color guard of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, displayed the American colors in the German Air Force's observance of Volkstrauertag, or National Day of Mourning, at Fort Bliss National Cemetery Nov. 18.
Each year, Airmen from the German Air Force Command and the German Air Defense Center, both located at Fort Bliss, observe the German national observance, which is similar to Memorial Day in the United States. Since 1952, German citizens have come together in similar events on the Sunday two days before the beginning of Advent to remember those who were killed during wars.
"We're proud to support our German allies on such a somber occasion. War and violence impact everyone, regardless of nationality," said Maj. Robert Wagner, deputy commanding officer of the 402nd FA Brigade. "It is always important to take the time to honor all the brave men and women who lost their lives due to war and tyranny, which is the intent of this day."
While this was the first time the brigade's color guard participated in the Day of Mourning ceremony, it is just one of several partnership events between the Soldiers of the 402nd and German Airmen from Fort Bliss and Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
Over the past three years, Team Bliss has trained and qualified more than 400 U.S. Soldiers with German Proficiency Badges and more than 200 German Airmen with U.S. Army Marksmanship Badges.
"It was an honor to participate in the Germans' commemoration ceremony and represent the United States," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Cline, operations noncommissioned officer for the 402nd, who carried the Army flag in the color guard. "I felt it was a nice thing to do for them -- a way of reciprocating for all the partnership events they do for us."
Cline has earned gold badges in both the German Proficiency Badge and the German Schützenschnur, a series of physical fitness tests and multiple marksmanship events using the German-issued pistol and rifle.
"We hope to continue to foster our friendship with the Germans. All of the joint cooperation and reciprocation that happens at our partnership events really just shows the true meaning of 'team,'" Wagner said. "After all, 'team' is what we do best at Division West. We're a multi-component organization which epitomizes the 'One Army' concept with Army Reserve, National Guard and active Army Soldiers working together, serving a nation at war. We've just added 'multi-national' to the mix."