Last Thursday, on a chilly autumn morning in Wiesbaden, Germany, members of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, gathered on Clay Kaserne.
They did not convene for an inspection, detail, ceremony, or formation. This was not for an exercise or training event. Instead, this group of Army professionals came together at the Newman Village Sports Complex for a day of food and spirited competition.
Upbeat music and the savory smell of slow-roasted pork moved through the stadium dugouts as the Soldiers and Civilians assigned to the battalion gathered to hear the opening remarks of U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command Sgt. Major Jeremiah Inman.
The mood was jovial as Inman opened with a few self-deprecating jokes and thanked the crowd for their service on behalf of himself and Gen. Daryl Williams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and Africa. But taking a more realistic tone, Inman noted that there is still more to be done in the near future.
“Our life is not going to get easier in the next three years,” said Inman. “But the support you’ve been able to do to help keep the madness of the command running—assist our Ukraine brothers and sisters with what they’re dealing with—it’s pretty awesome.”
His comments cannot be disputed. As the sole battalion that directly supports an organization with a 104-country area of responsibility, HHBN has been busy these last few months
This time last year, these people worked around the clock to support the thousands of evacuees who fled Afghanistan during Operation Allies Welcome. Five months later, after Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of U.S. troops deployed to Europe in support of NATO Allies, and HHBN stayed ready to accomplish its mission.
Lt. Col. Richard Gibson, the commander of HHBN, said he hoped that bringing his people together outside of the work environment would help build cohesive teams, one of his main priorities since taking command last June. But recognizing the workload of his organization, Gibson expressed how much his team earned an opportunity to relax.
“The op-tempo has been pretty high for the last seven or eight months, so I think that it is important to be able to decompress, and maybe give people a fresh outlook on things when they go back to their regular work tomorrow,” said Gibson.
The day was not without its own excitement. The event centered on two concurrent tournaments: one for kickball and another for Ultimate Frisbee. Fourteen teams were formed, each one representing a different staff section of the battalion.
At the end of the event, Col. Karst Brandsma, the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Deputy Chief of Staff, reminded the participants that there was still something to be learned from playing a few games with friends and colleagues.
“Competition breeds innovation, creativity, spontaneity—all the sorts of things you actually need in combat to succeed,” said Brandsma. “We’re not here to give participation trophies, we’re here to win championships. And the U.S. Army is the same way…. We’re here to win the big game when we need it.”
Each tournament was fierce but the battalion staff and the U.S. Army Europe and Africa G2 dominated both brackets most of the day.
The battalion staff eventually got beat out by the Office of the Judge Advocate in the Ultimate Frisbee semifinals but would ultimately take the championship in kickball by defeating the G2. The G2 redeemed their loss in kickball by taking the championship in Ultimate Frisbee, winning out over OJA.
Harkening back on Inman’s comments from earlier in the day, Brandsma explained how essential HHBN was to the theater—especially now more than ever.
“We’re at the tip of the spear,” said Brandsma. “We are the main effort for the United States Army out here…. The center of gravity for the Department of Defense is right here and it’s all happening here on Wiesbaden. And you guys are certainly a big part of that. We could not do what we do without you guys”
Overall, the HHBN Organizational Day welcomed nearly 300 people. Despite the trophies, each section who competed will unite as one team on Monday, ready to face any challenge about to come their way.