October is Disability Employment Awareness Month

Disability.jpgBy Kevin S. Abel

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month; the purpose of this designation is to raise awareness and educate everyone about disability employment issues and celebrate the many contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

This effort to educate the public about the issues related to disability and employment began in 1945, when Congress enacted Public Law 176, declaring the first week of October each year as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.

Some 25 years later, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The American Disability Act defines an individual with a disability as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a person who has a history or record of such impairment; or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” People with disabilities are a diverse group, crossing lines of age, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart supports the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs run by federal agencies; programs that receive federal financial assistance; in federal employment; and in the employment practices of federal contractors and requires federal employers to provide reasonable accommodations.

When faced with recruitment/ selection employment actions, managers and supervisors are to hire the best-qualified candidate based on their knowledge, skills and abilities and not based on whether they have a disability or not.

There are a large number of resources out there if a new employee has a disability or a current employee becomes disabled that can help. Two of these resources are; Job Accommodation Network (JAN) https://askjan.org/ and Computer/ Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) http://cap.mil/.

JAN is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. It represents the most comprehensive job accommodation resource available and helps people with disabilities enhance their employability and educates employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

CAP is the centrally funded reasonable accommodations program for employees with disabilities in the DoD. Congress granted it the authority to provide assistive technology, devices, and support services free of charge to Federal agencies that have a partnership agreement with them. These technologies, which can be used to maintain, increase, or improve an individual’s job performance, are available to accommodate people with apparent or hidden disabilities such as Blind/low vision, cognitive, communication, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, or dexterity.

To learn more about reasonable accommodations, contact the your Disability Program Manager or the USAG Stuttgart Equal Employment Opportunity Office at 314-430-5256.


Festive event brings cattle home

Tradition starts Viehscheid/Almabtrieb in Allgäu region


Story and photos by Kevin S. Abel

What better way to celebrate the end of summer of wondering and foraging
in the Allgäu Region of Southern Germany than with festivals including 30,000 of your fellow mountain travelers.

Having spent summer in the mountains grazing in the Alpine meadows, cattle are brought back down into the valleys in September before winter sets in, this is known as the Viehscheid or Almabtrieb.

Bells sounds can be heard throughout the valleys to the delight of all locals and guests as herders and cattle make their way down.

During the Viehscheid around 30,000 head of cattle leave the lush mountain pastures of the Allgäu Region and are herded into the valley to the Scheidplatz and sorted before being returned to their owners.

It all starts in the spring when herders promise owners of cattle herds they will return all of their animals to them in good health in the fall.

These herders take on a great amount of responsibility and drive the cattle up into the mountains shortly after the snowmelt to fatten them up throughout the 100 days of summer.

The time spent up in the mountains is not always easy for the herders. They often live in very simple conditions and lead extremely lonely lives.

29065138194_6ba388869e_kIf all has gone well, the leading cow is elaborately decorated. While all of the cattle are decorated with an elaborate bells and collars, only the  leading cow, or ‘Kranz’, or ‘Kranzkuh’ in Bavaria, is decorated with a wreath.

The wreath is fashioned from pine boughs, alpine flowers, bearing a cross and a mirror. All the other cows wear huge bells to ward off any evil demons the cattle might encounter on their way back down into the valley.

It’s the traditional way of giving thanks for good grazing season without losses. The Allgäu is a region in Swabia in southern Germany. It covers the south of Bavarian Swabia, southeastern Baden-Württemberg and parts of Austria.

The region stretches from the pre-alpine lands up to the Alps.

In recent years, the Viehscheid hasbecome increasingly popular and vary in the number of cattle and tourists.cattle-flickr

The average size of the gather is approximately 100-300 head of cattle per

It’s advisable to get to the Viehscheid early to get a good view. However, depending on the weather, it may also be delayed.

Published in the Stuttgart Citizen Sept. 22, 2016

360 VR Images produced for this story

Cattle graze in the high meadows of the Allgäu region before the start of the Viehscheid.

Cattle are herded in the valley at the Scheidplatz and sorted before being returned to their owners during the Viehscheid.


360 VR Photographs Feature Travel

Country music singer Ayla Brown marks her fourth trip entertaining service members overseas in Stuttgart


Younger members of the Stuttgart Military Community dance in front of the stage as Country music singer Ayla Brown, American Idol season 5 contestant, performs her last song during the Armed Forces Entertainment concert.

Story and photos by Kevin S. Abel

Armed Forces Entertainment has joined forces with Country Music singer Ayla Brown and Hope for the Day motivational speakers Shayla Rivera and Jonny Boucher to raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Month.

Hope For The Day’s vision is to bring communities together in order to shed light on the unfortunate topics of depression and suicide, while reducing suicide rates, inspiring and empowering those who need help, to get help.29369798216_8a4f0ab307_k

Their wish is to share the deeply personal connection creativity can have in fostering an environment of positive change to the suffering.

They view art and music as a highway to the heart; two things that have allowed humanity to express our emotions for millennia.

Ayla Brown is an American country music recording artist and a contestant on American Idol, season 5 in 2006 , she placed in the top 16. Shortly after the season’s conclusion, Brown attended Boston College on a full basketball scholarship, and graduated in 2010 with a communications degree.

She is the sixth leading scorer in Massachusetts basketball history, male or female, a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, and was named the top female basketball player in Massachusetts.

Recognized as a pioneer and entrepreneur, Brown founded and owns her own record company, Ambient Entertainment.28780076234_3b8f3feae9_k

Having a keen eye for business and building mutually successful partnerships, Brown enjoys outstanding corporate relationships with the likes of Hilton Hotels, Texas Roadhouse and Concerned Veterans For America.

Brown has performed overseas three times, before her current tour that brought her to Stuttgart, to American troops in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt.

In November of 2012, Ayla released her second album Heroes & Hometowns and achieved a life-long dream of performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN.

Since the album’s release, Heroes & Hometowns has peaked at number one on Amazon MP3 and number 51 on iTunes. Every member of the Stuttgart Military Community that attended the concert was treated to this album autographed by Brown.


Published Sept. 8, 2016 in the Stuttgart Citizen

Feature Military

1,000-year wine growing history awaits


Weinmuseum Brömserburg (Brömser-burg Wine Museum), tells the Rüdesheim area’s 1,000-year wine growing history in one of the oldest castles in the Rhine River Valley.

The Brömserburg in Rüdesheim is one of the oldest castles along the Rhine River. The former fort, which was once surrounded by water, was built around 1000 A.D. as an early castle of the archbishops of Mainz, was rebuilt as a residence about 1200A.D. and later belonged to the knights of Rüdesheim. Since 1950, it has housed the Weinmuseum.

The castle offers the world’s oldest wine-related collection, ranging from wine and drinking vessels made out of different materials, to hundreds of bottles and labels, to tools and equipment used by coppers, cellar men and wine-growers. A fascinating history is provided in several languages.160508-A-UP937-15.jpg

The still preserved walls of the former moated castle date from the 12th century.

The castle itself is situated in a garden beside the Rüdesheim Rheinstraße, just a short walk away from the famous Drosselgasse. In a journey through the history of wine, visitors experience the Brömserburg: 2,000 wine-related exhibits from the past to the present day.

At the entrance of Rheinstraße is a winery statue, 6000 liter wine barrel, barrel and crate carts, and a large number of presses throughout the garden to see.

In the halls and vaults of the castle a large number of wine and drinking vessels from early times to modern day including ceramic vessels from the Middle East, ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.

You will also find collections of Roman glasses and medieval wine jars from the Rheingau ceramic centers of Aulhausen and Dippenhausen, along with stoneware, cans and cups of tin and precious metals from the 16-19th centuries.

Also on display is collection of wine, brandy and schnapps glasses, in all major European styles from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo and Biedermeier to Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Ancient sculptures illustrate the importance of wine in mythology and religion, explain the cult of Dionysus (god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in Greek mythology) and a Christian era collection of measuring cups and jugs and a representation of a wine saint.

You will find wine bottles of different shapes from the 17th century to modern times, wine labels, decorative cork and corkscrew and tools of the winemaker, winemaker and barrel copper.

If you venture through the small winding staircases and work your way up, great views from the roof and the terrace await you of the Rhine River and surrounding vineyards.

Besides offering information on the history of wine, the Brömserburg also gives visitors the opportunity to try different wines.  There are self-guided audio tours available in multiple languages to assist you in your visit. To enjoy the special exhibits and get a full museum experience allow yourself at least two hours.160508-A-UP937-7.jpg

Rüdesheim is a tourist town filled with half-timber houses, narrow streets, and old inns give the town a medieval character. On the edge of town on top of the Niederwald is a monument that was built between 1877 and 1883 to commemorate the re-establishment of the German Empire in 1871, after the end of the Franco-Prussian War. The 125 foot tall monument represents the union of all Germans. The monument can be reached by gondola lift from Rüdesheim to Niederwald, by car from Assmanshausen or by trail on foot.

Every September Rüdesheim holds a wine festival; it is also known for its brandy and Sekt, a sparkling wine. Its location, architecture, and wines make the town a favored stop along the Rhine for tourists.

If your travels permit, you can catch a ride down the middle Rhine on a number of small ships that travel the waterway giving a view of castles along the way. As most ships travel from Mainz to Cologne, and some of these ships also offer special dinner and dance cruises.

During your visit to the Rhine, immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere created by fountains of fire reflected in the waters of the Rhine and the thunder of the fireworks echoing from the steep banks. Around 50 ships join a flotilla that glides below perhaps the most elaborate _ reworks to be seen in Germany. The surrounding Middle Rhine Valley erupts in a final climactic display of pyrotechnic art during select days of the summer called Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames). The biggest Rhein in Flammen event takes place in Koblenz every year, on the second Saturday in August. More information on Rhein in Flammen can be found at http://www.rhein-in-flammen.com.

Opening times — Mid-March to late October daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Address — Rheingau Wine Museum, Brömserburg, Rheinstraße 2, 65385 Rüdesheim am Rhein
Telephone — +49 (0) 6722-2348
GPS — 49.9776, 7.9179
Fee — €5
Stroller/ADA Friendly — No

Website: www.rheingauer-weinmuseum.de

Feature Travel

Olympians help Stuttgart Piranhas perfect swim strokes

Aaron.jpgOlympic athlete Aaron Peirsol races the length of the pool at the Maichingen Gartenhallenbad in Sindelfingen, Germany, May 21 against swimmers of the Stuttgart Piranhas to finish out a day of drills and training.

Story and photos by Kevin S. Abel

Olympic athletes Aaron Peirsol and Kim Vandenberg visited Sindelfingen on Saturday, May 21, for a swim clinic to help Stuttgart Piranhas improve their swimming stokes and get ready for swim season, which runs from August through February.

The clinic featured two sessions that allowed the Olympians to teach in a small group settings, maximizing the time spent with each swimmer.

During the clinic, the Olympians focused on favorite drills that helped them throughout their career to become a faster swimmer. “As a coach, I learned some new drills that will benefit our swimmers,” said Andrea Symak, head coach, Stuttgart Piranhas. “I think overall our team was thrilled to have Aaron Peirsol and Kim Vandenberg here to instruct.”

Peirsol is a three-time Olympian and seven-time Olympic medalist, earning five gold and two silver medals. He currently holds the world record in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke and the 4×100-meter medley relay.

Vandenberg who is a butterfly swimmer, was a member of the bronze-medal-winning U.S. team in the  women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

“These kids are at the age that both Aaron and I started swimming,” said Vandenberg. “When I was their age, I looked up to the Olympic athletes, so for me it’s so important to give back to the community.” Adding that she, “find(s) that a lot of younger swimmers doubt their abilities; you must believe in yourself and your abilities.”

The day started with the younger swimmers getting their chance in the pool and two hours of training to help improve the foundations of the backstroke and butterfly. The afternoon training session allowed the seasoned swimmers to take a moment to get to know the Olympians and their training regiments. “It is interesting to know their favorite drills to correct technique, what type of sets they like to work on and their approach to teach different age groups,” said Symak.

“The best thing about the Olympians being with us was when each one of us had the chance to interact with Peirsol and Vandenberg, personally, all throughout the clinics,” said Annelise Meyer, senior swimmer, Stuttgart Piranhas. “A few of us have had other opportunities to meet Peirsol and Vandenberg long before this clinic. I was coached by Peirsol at the University of Texas swim camp when I was nine years old, and it was really cool to interact with him once again.”

To round out the clinic the Stuttgart Piranhas’ swimmers had the opportunity to race the Olympians in their choice of strokes.

“It was an awesome privilege to have Aaron Peirsol and Kim Vandenberg here conducting a clinic for the Piranhas in Germany,” said Meyer. “We don’t have the same opportunities to attend swim clinics as other swimmers do in the United States, it was a very exciting and unforgettable experience.”

The Stuttgart Piranhas are an international youth swim team open to swimmers in the Stuttgart area, representing the United States and the Stuttgart Community.

The team is part of the European Forces Swim League, competing in swim meets around Europe including Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium.

For more information on the Stuttgart Piranhas or to register contact registrar@ stuttgartpiranhas.org To view more photos from the swim clinic visit our Flickr site at http://bit.ly/ stuttgartpiranhas

olympic-dtPublished June 2, 2016 in the Stuttgart Citizen
Feature Military Uncategorized

Ehrenfels Castle ruins stand testament of time along Rhein River

Ehrenfels Castle.jpg

Photo by Kevin S. Abel

The Ehrenfels Castle formed together with the Mauseturm and the Klopp Castle a northward barrier since the 13th Century, in order to protect the territory of the archbishop of Mainz.

In the Middle Ages it was strategically of greatest importance because of its favorable location above the Binger Loch. It was as toll station, an important pecuniary resource for the bishops and the church.

The castle, which was used in times of war as a hiding place for the cathedral treasury of Aachen, was extensively destroyed in 1689.

Standalone Photos Travel

Circus celebrates military children

Child, Youth and School Services celebrate Month of the Military Child with Circus Finale.


Story and Photos by Kevin S. Abel

April was “Month of the Military Child,” which began in 1986. Established by the Secretary of Defense, this designation was enacted to underscore the important role that children play in the military community as well as recognize and commend families for the sacrifices they make every day to support our country.

In honor of Month of the Military Child the Stuttgart Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS), teamed with various partners in the Stuttgart Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation to recognize the sacrifices and applaud the courage of military children with events throughout the month.

“This month is about recognizing and Circus Finaleshowing appreciation for our military children,” said Col. Glenn K. Dickenson, Garrison Commander. “The strength of our service members comes from knowing their families are part of a community that will be there for them.”

More than 2 million American children under the age of 18 have at least one parent serving in the military. It is estimated the U.S. Army has more than 900,000 military children with one or both parents having deployed multiple times.

Garrisons around the world hold celebrations designed to recognize the sacrifices military children make and the support they provide to their Soldier-parent(s) and families.

Here in the Stuttgart community, those events started with a CYSS bubble launch, Strike Out Child Abuse event at Galaxy Bowling and Entertainment Center, Wizard of Oz themed lock in at Patch School Age Center (SAC), a special movie showing and a youth flea market plus a few other events.

The culminating event was a Circus Finale filled with Tricks and Illusion performances by Merz and Pillini, Child, Youth and School Services sponsored games, bounce house, bungee tower and super-slide held on Husky Field.

“It is really important to host an event for the community celebrating the Month of the Military Child,” said Jamie Ruffini, CYS Coordinator. “ is free event allows the entire community to come together and celebrate all of our children.”

School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills (SKIES) Extracurricular Instructional Ballet class hosted by CYSS also conducted a performance as part of the entertainment. For more information on the programs that CYSS offers the community from recreation to leisure activities contact the Family MWR at http://stuttgart. armymwr.com.

momc-dtPublished in the May 5, 2016 Edition of the Stuttgart Citizen.
Feature Military