By 1st Lt. Dylan Hendy
Special to the Herald Union
Receiving orders to serve in a foreign country can be a challenging period in a Soldier’s career. The expectation to learn a new culture can be overwhelming, but to live in it for an extended period of time can be an intimidating concept for many Soldiers and their Families.
It’s no different for a 30-year-old lieutenant and his family. From my perspective, living and serving abroad had always attracted me to the uniform. Diverse cultural experiences and traveling were always high priorities on my bucket list.
One of my primary responsibilities is to coordinate and execute our company’s partnership events with our German Partnership unit of 29 years: Reservisten-Kameradschaft Grafing-Ebersberg, or the Reservist Comradeship of Grafing and Ebersberg in Bavaria, Germany). The partnership program is officially titled Project Partnership and was created in 1968. The program was designed to promote joint training between U.S. Army Europe and North Atlantic Treaty Organization units with the purpose of increasing personal and professional contacts between USAREUR and NATO soldiers.
Initially, upon receiving orders to Germany, I was focused on the idea of serving in a historic part of the world. Once I arrived and was assigned my partnership responsibilities, I realized that I had been placed in a position that would significantly broaden my cultural experience. Through my interactions with our German counterparts, my understanding and appreciation for their culture and perspective continues to grow. Of all the jobs and positions I have filled, this aspect of my working career has been the most rewarding service I have been a part of.
It’s fascinating to consider how far German and U.S. relations have come over the past century. Less than 100 years ago we were wartime adversaries. Today, both of our countries serve as key members of NATO, working together to strengthen global security. It’s reasonable to maintain optimism that if rebuilding relations with Germany was achieved, that it may be achievable by other countries and beliefs that are currently in conflict throughout the world.
During the first year of my assignment in Wiesbaden, Soldiers throughout the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade and Airmen of the 485th Intelligence Squadron have conducted mountain, weapons and fitness training, provided and received staff briefings, and participated in multiple social events with several units of the Bundeswehr, or German armed forces. Through these combined joint training events and experiences, we’ve learned from one another, built stronger relations, and for many of us, secured lifelong friendships.
The mountain training exercise our unit conducted with our German partners was the first and most eye-opening military cultural event that I had the opportunity to be a part of. The event took place in the Bavarian Alps south of Munich. My first sergeant and I convoyed with 20 Soldiers across the country and were hosted in a mountain hut by 30 German soldiers.
The training included rock climbing and rappelling, martial arts and simulated shooting exercises, which all led to a culminating ruckmarch further up into the Alps.
The training that led up to the ruckmarch tested every participant. We woke up early the morning of the ruckmarch, had breakfast and there we were, hiking in the Alps on a misty Bavarian morning at 2,100 meters above sea level mixed into a column of 50 German and American soldiers.
When we arrived at the summit of the mountain, I distinctly remember the sense of accomplishment throughout the ranks. As we prepared for our descent I immediately observed a change in morale. It was as if this shared accomplishment brought soldiers of two militaries to remove communication barriers and build a deeper respect for one another. It was at this moment that I knew we had accomplished our mission and I understood why our higher headquarters places so much emphasis in partnership relations.
Upon completion of the ruckmarch, our partners held a closing ceremony and awarded our Soldiers with the German Gebirgsjäger, or mountain troop’s badge, commonly referred to as the Edelweiss badge. As we shook the hands of our German partners and exchanged gifts prior to returning to Wiesbaden, it was clear that each soldier from both militaries understood and appreciated the experience we had just shared.
The importance of our partnership may play a small role in the overall relationship we as an Army have with the Bundeswehr and the communities we serve in. However, through every partnership event, we have met new members of the Bundeswehr, creating new contacts and relationships with members of NATO.
Our partnership events are our means of contributing to USAREUR’s Strong Europe campaign.
Representatives of the Wiesbaden military community and their counterparts from the garrison’s partner unit, the Landeskommando Hessen, look at the remaining bridgeheads of the famous Remagen Bridge during a staff ride March 19. The bridge built during World War I to facilitate German troop movement into France survived several bombing raids during World War II.
Photo by Anemone Rueger