Lessons learned as an enlisted US Army soldier in Neu Ulm, Germany.

Neu Ulm base

In 1982 I was seventeen years old when I arrived in Neu Ulm, Germany. Fresh out of basic training from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, this was the first time I was on my own, not that as property of the U.S. Government you are really ever on your own. I learned a lot, much of it the hard way but definitely amusing as I look back in time.

As was customary for all the newbies’ I recall literally crawling back onto the base in Neu Ulm after having been introduced to German beer. Thankfully practices such as those are not common anymore but that was the way back then. It’s no wonder that some of the German people had their reservations about G.I.s’. Amazingly enough I recall most of the German people as very helpful and friendly and enjoyed my time there. There were many protests outside our post regarding Pershing missiles but no one I met in Germany ever held it personally against me.

I was amazed when I opened my first checking account. Let me get this straight, I just fill out this piece of paper, write whatever amount of money I want on it, and I get it? This was awesome, for three weeks anyway. This led to my first visit to the commander’s office. If I hadn’t been such a great soldier in the field I never would have made it in the army.

As I had always thrived on learning I loved the first few months of duty. They had classes for new soldiers, we learned some basic language skills, cultural differences, and I got my German driver’s license which I believe was more of an American piece of paper that gave us the right to drive. The Autobahn, that brings back some memories but as I can see I’ll never fit everything I’d like into this hub.

Let me just say that as there were no speed limits the German Polizei were accustomed to yelling, “Slow down G.I.” through handheld megaphones.

Again I am amazed at how well we were treated considering the sometimes rampant lack of maturity. I took several classes via the University of Maryland while in Neu Ulm. The most memorable was American History, taught by a professor who had some very different views of U.S. politics than what would likely be taught here in the states. It was interesting to get a perspective on American government from a professor not from the U.S.

Learning was great but letter writing didn’t interest me much back then. That led to my next trip to the commander’s office, as my mother had not heard from me for several months she contacted the U.S. Army as to my whereabouts and the commander let me know in no uncertain terms how unacceptable this was. Thus began my regular letter writing to back home.

As an avid amateur photographer I was broke most of the time. I recall spending as much as I made in a month on film and processing on more than one occasion. To this day I have to laugh as I can take pictures all day without spending a dime. The digital age certainly has made photography much more affordable.

The other big lessons I learned in Germany could have had quite serious repercussions’. Our post was regularly locked down due to German citizens protesting our Pershing missiles. As it wasn’t personal I would fulfill my guard shifts with my loaded M-16 blocking the protesters then I would climb over the fence behind the mess hall and hang out with some of those same protesters while off duty. Although this was relatively harmless I’m confident that Uncle Sam might not have approved. Luckily I was never held accountable for that or perhaps it was merely overlooked. Then there was the time that I returned quite late from my first leave back to the states. This could have been a very serious offense but fortunately for me it was also overlooked. We spent a lot of the time out in the field and I knew that I had better get back prior to our unit shipping out. I made it back with barely enough time to get my gear together and get to our train. The commander walked by while on the train and told me he was glad I could make it and that was all that ever came of it.

The Pershing protests provided me a new job for a while. Rather than working as a forward observer I was introduced to anti-terrorism long before the term became common dinner table conversation here in the states. Times sure have changed.

I am looking forward to returning to Germany one day not as a soldier but as a tourist. Germany has much to offer as a vacation destination.

Ulm Germany
Ulm Germany

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Comments 32 comments

Joachim Lenk 4 months ago

New and old photos from the US Garrison Ulm/Neu-Ulm 1951 - 1991: www.USGarrison.com

Gene Watson 11 months ago

Wiley Barracks, 1Bn36Arty, March 1967-March 1969. 110 ST Howitzer. MSGT James A. Barron taught me much at A Battery before his death at Grafenwhre. on March 5, 1968. Anyone remember Col.Shaky Jake? Captain Mulligan, CA Battery?

Neu Ulm has certainly changed from when I was there.

Ollie Frank, my wife loved shopping at markets.

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Rick Schultz 13 months ago

Great story Dave I also arrived in Neu Ulm Nelson Barracks in 1982 @ the the young age of 18 as an E-3 but the one difference was with The Air Force. Loved me some German Bier @ places like The Red Oxen,Weiss Lamb & other Gathhauses.... Still recall waking up up to The Army P.T. Chant: Wake Up Flyboy's Wake Up after a good Drunken Stupor the nite before. Do remember the protests. Hard to believe it was 34 yrs ago? Danke! A Proud Air Grunt Rick " Schultzy" Schultz.

DEBORAH 13 months ago

Hallo David ....just seen this post while scrolling through pinterest...I lived in Neu-Ulm 84-87....as a "military dependent"...lived off base ....but i just wanted to say ...what an experience ....Year before last (after 30 years) i went back to Neu-Ulm....My... how it has changed .....very crowded, and fast paced....but what a beautiful country Germany is ....the beer is still awsum...lol....i plan on returning to Germany .....soon .....Guten Tag und Auf Wiedersehen....i hope you go back for a visit.....it is much better as a tourist... :)

troy mayo 15 months ago

Hello all i was at wiley barracks 82 to84was with

Keith Gardner 20 months ago

I was stationed in Neu-Ulm (1975-1977) as a Military Policeman. The experience there with the German Police was the best Police experience 1 could hope for. 3 years after the Munich Olympic attack. 2 years working with the GP's was the best OJT 1 could hope for. I miss the good times from Neu-Ulm.

mlchael boone 20 months ago

I was stationed in new Ulm at Wiley barracks in d battery as a point guard attached from b2/4 inf loved cast site duty won't change a thing

Curt Y 23 months ago

My first perment assignment was Flack K. with the HHQ 502nd ASA Group later 66th MI Bn. I had a great time. I enjoyed the culture so much I took a local girl back to the State. After completing my tour at Ft Carson, Co with 4th Infantry Div, we return to Germany. I got a job with University of Maryland in Neu Ulm. I help Servicemen and their Dependents enroll in classes. Some of the very best years of my life.

Steven 23 months ago

Bravo Battery, Big Red One. 13 bang bang. 80 to 84 Best years ever for exploring life in Europe.

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David Warren 2 years ago from Nevada Author

I left in 84' , unit changed twice between 82 and 84, 1/33 field artillery supported the "Big Red One" 1st infantry division forward" as a forward observer.

Phil 2 years ago

What unit were you in? When did you leave Neu Ulm?

Ron Crossman 2 years ago

I was there around 1966-67 great memories ! Thanks for the walk down memory lane !

miguel 2 years ago

Hi, i was in new Ulm from 74 to 76 and i had a wonderful time and a Lot of Nice memories. I was in Nelson barracks. I remember when i got threre they was Ready to take the expert infantry badge and i Pass the Test in my First try. After that IT was very easy to get rank. The Bad News was that i had a very strong sergeant and is Name was Blue. If somebody was in that there please send me a e Mail AT: mikepr321@gmail.com

James Jonas 2 years ago

David, I was there at Nelson from 81 to 83. I was in HQ Company, 56 th Field Artillery Brigade, the Ranger Platoon, under Staff Sgt. Smith.

I still would like to visit sometime, though the closest I have gotten was Frankfurt in 2010.

Glad you took the time to write about a place so dear to me an so full of fond memories.

wesleygarnes@yahoo.com 3 years ago

I was in Neu Ulm from December 89 until we closed the posts in 91. It was sad to leave.I was in 2nd platoon Bco 2/4 IN on Nelson Kaserne. The Pershing duty was excellent and as I get ready to retire I am happy I never was subject to UCMJ action as a result of my upbringing in the 56th FA Command (Pershing).

David Walker 5 years ago

Your story was so similar to when I was stationed Neu-Ulm in 1986 it scared me.Thank you for bring up those good memories.

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David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you Kevin, yes definitely good times. I would love to go back and visit one day.

Kevin 5 years ago

Hey Dave,

Your story about being a young G.I. in Europe mirrors mine. I was pretty immature back then but the experience helped me grow up. I was at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart from '81 to '83. Those were some of the best times of my life. I've been back a few times on business and always make it a point to visit my old stomping grounds and have a beer or two, or three. ;)

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David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you Ghost!

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Ghost32 5 years ago

Interesting. David, while I was also stationed in Germany (Fliegerhorst Kaserne, outside of Hanau, 1964-65), the biggest thing I got from this well written Hub was the extreme difference between young enlisted soldiers (like you) and older, life-hardened draftees (as I was, when there was a draft).

In our unit, we were about half and half, draftees vs. younger volunteers. Most of the weird stuff (like you describe) could be attributed to the 17 and 18 year olds (not all, by a long shot, but definitely more than half).

Says the guy who got busted for...never mind! LOL!

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cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

voted funny. you didn't write to your folks and now you're a writer! i'm 5/8 german, so always interested to hear about deutschland. thanks.

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David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Goody7,thank You for commenting! Who knows, we may have crossed paths back then. I will definitely take a look at your 'Ghostly Places' hub.

Hi Katharella, I hope your day finds you well also! I know about toys and taxes, no fun.

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Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

I agree, some things shouldn't be told to children. I don't like what I know, but as a grown woman I am glad I know now because it helps me stay on top of my politics and maybe someday I can make a difference to stop it from happening again. I'm not a type of person to go into the world blindly, and I like to know I could make a change. But children need to be children, and enjoy bbq's and fun days with dad! Like yours! :) Hope the day finds you well, and enjoying your family! I, personally am going bonkers at the price of insurance on my first big buy of the American dream! *scream* lol!

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goody7 5 years ago from over there under the sycamore tree

Great hub, which brings back many good memories. I was also in West Germany in 1982 thru 1985 at about that same age. I drove Army trucks to Neu Ulm a lot back then. I however was stationed in Ludwigsburg, which was about 20KM North of Stuttgart. I wrote about that Army Base in my hub "Ghostly Places", because it was haunted.

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David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Hello and Thank You!

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chspublish 5 years ago from Ireland

Hi, it's great to read how it was for you in Germany in those days and how you saw things. A great piece.

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David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Lol, yes I've had some tough times as well and NEVER would have let my family in on them. Such is life I guess, we all have our ups and downs, most of us anyway.

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Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

Ah, yeah, I see now that I scroll up, well, for the record I'm not really a morning person lol! But I think the cake and beer just "eeewww" for a few minutes. I'm glad ya got eggs and actually had a brighter time than those who seen no peacetime at all.

Quite a long family history with the Military. My dad was drafted at age 17. In fact I have the photos ready to do a hub about my dad.

I was mixed up there a bit I coulda swore you'd said 89, my apologies to Bret, and wish it didn't mess up cake and beer for him! Well, even though the two do NOT go together! haha When you're hungry amazing the things that do tho. A friend and me survived off of potatoes for about a year. We were lucky when we could actually get butter or even sour cream on some months.. too proud to let our parents know we were barely making rent and utilities and gas for our one old car! lol!

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David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Hi Katharella! Actually that was Bret referring to Prague in 1989, I was in Germany 1982-1983. Most days were actually eggs for breakfast but being young and spending a lot of time living in the field we would cut loose and do some crazy things when in garrison. I was long gone from Germany by the time the wall came down. Everyone in my family going back to World War 1 served in the military. I just got lucky is all, peacetime duty. I got out of my last reserve unit back east in the spring of 2001 as my back was in bad shape by then. The unit I was affiliated with was activated after 9/11.

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Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

Hi David, I think I have several questions, maybe rhetorical ;) and comments about your hub, and this cake and beer for breakfast.. meal? Is that the norm there? Maybe just the timing? I've heard of some strange breakfast, but this is one I'd never begin to understand.

As a fellow hubber, with a quest for learning all I can about the world before my days are up, you might know not only did I read your hub last night, but spent some time looking things up, from personal experiences, finding a page for soldiers looking for each other, they seem to look back with a bit of happiness in the mission of being there and loyalty to their friends in the service as well. I have the link still if you'd like it just let me know, I'll post it here so maybe others who find your hub might find it of interest, as well as reunite some long lost buddies.

I must say 1989 a lot was going on around the world. Even Nov. 9th holding significance in my personal life. Baptized in the Jordan River 11.9.75 with my mother, and 11.9.02 losing her, although dad referred it to her being taken on that date she gave her life, in the river and then again in 02. Dad met up with her on 11.14.09. His birthday 11.13.22. My ancestors come from Essen. So, I have those dates & Germany etched in my brain forever.

As your other poster says, "back to the beer & cake" maybe I find it strange my favorite cake, is German chocolate! (before I knew my heritage) Although, hold the beer, any kind! lol. Not a mix for me! I guess I just don't understand WHY beer and cake! Why cake? Separate from, why beer? No eggs & bacon, toast?

At the end of your hub, while I realize you were done, although really did have more you could of went on about, I was not! I'm left thinking... "and then what?" :) You (us) were there to ensure a peaceful taking down of the Berlin wall? or Nothing to do with it? Just ensuring peace?

I've spent the morning with my searches of Germany '89. Although I remember 89 quite well with the Chinese students. I was very occupied with that. I was just 30, but quite aware, saddened, and angry. They are being forced into coming around, like it or not, it's the timing. It's slow!

My dad was stationed in Luzon Philippines in WW2, none of his stories ever included anything other than violence. So knowing of peace-keepers is good, as I hate knowing what my dad endured. I wish he had of gotten cake and beer, even though he was never a beer drinker, it would have been a better reminder of his Military days than what were. He wanted me to be a photographer, so I had the old fashion dark room and he even put in a sink for the constant running water needed from those olden days. He NEVER squandered money, but he always got me plenty of paper/developing chemicals/lens' every-anything needed. I'm glad he did live to see the digital age come to be, it was one of the first things he bought me then.. a digital camera which now is not much compared to what I have! My hubs are an array, but I even have one on those pictures you have but don't know WHY your camera flashed! I just can't bring myself to delete them lol! That hub was the tip of the ice burg of - no worries on wasting film! (He liked that part!)lol!

I look forward to your next hub of Germany.. and beer! :) (thinking of it is good for a diet from a woman's perspective fyi lol) - Just in case you're not up with all the rules (not that I know them all apparently lol) but I do know it's ok to use your photos from your other site. I think it's just words they don't want copied. Have a great day!

(gosh I didn't mean to ramble a comment as long as a hub, my hubber friends razz me on that lol) :)

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David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada Author

Thank you Bret.. Must have been interesting work in Prague in those years. We did some anti-terrorism profiling back then. Long before anti-terrorism was a dinner table word,lol.No way on chocolate cake and a beer in the morning for me either, could never do that now. But I do have some stories about beer and Germany. :)

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Bretsuki 5 years ago from California USA

Hello David, thanks for another really good hub.I remember my first drink of German beer, It was August 1989 and I was on Stuttgart Railway Station at 4am. I was on my way to Prague, yes it was in the last months of Czechoslovakian communist rule. But back to the beer, I remember the breakfast was a huge slice of chocolate cake and a litre od beer. After a night on a train it tasted really good. Not sure if I could face cake and beer for breakfast today. :)

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