BAMBERG, Germany — The 279th Base Support Battalion and the Bamberg German-American Men’s Club are playing matchmaker this holiday season.

With the Christmas Good Cheer Program, single soldiers from Warner Barracks can get out of their not-so-festive barracks, and spend the holiday with a local German family.

“The holiday season is a special season,” said Sybille Schmitt, who runs the program for the 279th BSB. “Soldiers may feel lonely being in a foreign country at this time. We have this program so that soldiers won’t feel left out over the holidays.”

The program started in Bamberg 20 years ago. Schmitt has headed it up for 17 years.

The program usually links up 30 to 40 soldiers with German families. Last year, only 10 soldiers signed up because 1st Armored Division units were deployed to Iraq and the 1st Infantry Division was on block leave before deploying.

“There were not many soldiers around to sign up last year,” said Helmut Funke, vice president of Bamberg’s German-American Men’s Club. “This year, we will beat the drums even louder. We want to reach the soldiers who will be alone for the holidays and who may be under even more stress from the war.”

Although no soldiers had signed up for the program as of Friday morning, Schmitt said representatives from the 54th Engineer Battalion and 7th Corps Support Group had several soldiers interested in participating.

Soldiers who sign up for the program fill out an application that lists their age, hobbies, interests and where they are from in the States. Schmitt and Funke then try to link up soldiers and families whose interests appear to match best.

“If we have a family that went to the States and visited Wisconsin, for example, we try to match them up with a soldier from Wisconsin,” Schmitt said. “That way they have something to talk about.”

And talking won’t be a problem.

“There is no language barrier,” Schmitt said. “When we advertise in the German newspapers, we request that at least one person in the family is able to speak English.”

The program bolsters German-American relations, which Funke said have been strong in Bamberg for many years.

“For the families, this is an opportunity to strengthen the ties between Germans and Americans and share their traditions,” Funke said. “The soldiers are living in Bamberg, and we want to make them feel at home.”"This is a kind of Christmas present to our guests.”

For more information about the program, call DSN 469-1600 or civilian 0951-300-1600.

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