Support our mission
Airman Michael Heim, right, and his wife, Airman Kathleen Heim, second from right, discuss German horseback riding excursions with Gabi Portz-Wagner, who runs some stables around Spangdahlem Air Base. The information was part of the air base's second annual "Explore the Eifel" event.

Airman Michael Heim, right, and his wife, Airman Kathleen Heim, second from right, discuss German horseback riding excursions with Gabi Portz-Wagner, who runs some stables around Spangdahlem Air Base. The information was part of the air base's second annual "Explore the Eifel" event. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

Airman Michael Heim, right, and his wife, Airman Kathleen Heim, second from right, discuss German horseback riding excursions with Gabi Portz-Wagner, who runs some stables around Spangdahlem Air Base. The information was part of the air base's second annual "Explore the Eifel" event.

Airman Michael Heim, right, and his wife, Airman Kathleen Heim, second from right, discuss German horseback riding excursions with Gabi Portz-Wagner, who runs some stables around Spangdahlem Air Base. The information was part of the air base's second annual "Explore the Eifel" event. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

Chriss Lavigne, left, talks with Staff Sgts. Ebony Clark and Mary Sharp during the “Explore the Eifel” fair.

Chriss Lavigne, left, talks with Staff Sgts. Ebony Clark and Mary Sharp during the “Explore the Eifel” fair. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — The commanders of Spangdahlem Air Base have one order of business for their crews next week: Go check out Germany.

More specifically, check out the Eifel region where the base is situated. In fact, airmen will have all week to pick a destination and head out behind the American bubble that houses the base exchange and Popeye’s chicken and biscuits.

To facilitate this cultural exploration, the base command hosted the second, annual “Explore the Eifel” fair Friday. All military personnel were ordered to attend the expo and check out the various Germans who came to show off what’s to do in the Spangdahlem area.

Throughout the day, camo-green uniforms mingled with Germans who were touting everything from horseback riding lessons to parks, wine-tastings and castle tours.

But the airmen are not being forced to check out the local area, said Lt. Col. Angel Diaz, deputy operations group commander for the 52nd Fighter Wing, the host unit at Spangdahlem.

“I would say ‘encouraged,’” he said Friday. The idea to have a fair to show off the area was the idea of the outgoing 52nd commander, Col. Dave Goldfein, who recently handed over command to Col. Darryl Roberson.

Goldfein grew up in Germany as an “Air Force brat,” and wanted other airmen to experience the culture off base, Diaz said, and Roberson has supported the effort as well.

Some airmen are too content to just hang around the base amenities, he said. “One of the best parts of being overseas is exploring,” Diaz said. “You tend to gravitate toward what you know, and sometimes it takes a push.”

The area around the base is largely rolling pastures. There’s no big city nearby by for airmen to head to on the weekend. Having a tangible initiative to get Germans and Americans knowing each other is beneficial, he said.

“The overarching goal is to increase interaction,” Diaz said. “If you have an excellent relationship, it makes everything easier.”

With a gift bag and some brochures in hand, Senior Airman Michael Davison said it was difficult to find things to do when he arrived six months ago.

“It’s very informative,” Davison said of Friday’s fair. “I got some mountain bike trails and stuff.”

Elfriede Sebastiani was touting a wine-tasting held at a nearby vineyard. Participants are taken out into the vineyard, overlooking the Mosel River, for a glass and a picnic. Then they go inside for a large wine-tasting and dinner. “It’s a lot of fun, I hope,” she said.

Staff Sgt. Mary Sharp said she knows plenty of Spangdahlem airmen who could use a bit of exposure off the base.

“I think that they’re just not knowledgeable,” she said of those who don’t get out and about. “And they don’t have cars.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up