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German Week in the woods of Missouri

The term “in the woods” is often used when referring to the U.S. Army’s Ft. Leonard Wood training installation in the Ozark Mountains in Pulaski County, Missouri. Situated in a remote location between Springfield and St. Louis, Ft. Leonard Wood is the duty station for some 30,000 service members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and the U.S. National Guard. This is where the U.S. Army carries out training for engineer, CBRN defense and military police personnel under the auspices of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. By contrast, the town of St. Robert, which borders the area of Ft. Leonard Wood, only has about 4,000 citizens.

Due to its location in the Midwest, far from Washington D.C., Ft. Leonard Wood is a perfect place when it comes to holding a German-American military event in the heart of the United States as part of the Year of German-American Friendship.

This “German Week” was jointly hosted by Major General Donna Martin, the commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, and Colonel (GS) Helmut Frietzsche, the commander of the German Armed Forces Command USA/CAN. The event featured German delegations of the Army Engineer Training Center in Ingolstadt, the Bundeswehr Military Police Command in Hannover and the CBRN Defense Command in Bruchsal, under the overall command of Brigadier General Frank Schmitz, Deputy Director of the German Armed Forces Office, jointly training together with their U.S. Army counterparts in Ft. Leonard Wood.

The German Week offered many occasions to discuss current military activity areas, the future development of the armed forces, and other fields of cooperation.

Brigadier Schmitz emphasized that “intensive exchanges such as this, as well as the consistent continuation of similar cooperation projects in the future, are an essential prerequisite for the interoperability and credibility that we need in order to prevent conflicts in a highly complex environment and to successfully carry out joint operations.”

In this context, both delegation heads welcomed the fact that specific agreements have been reached concerning further cooperation in the fields of CBRN defense, engineering, and military police work.

The extensive supporting program of the German week also included a German fest with German beer, bratwurst and sauerkraut. This not only provided the opportunity to bolster the good relations, but also brought back pleasant memories among the many American friends and their families of time spent abroad in Germany.

In a speech held during the event, Brigadier General Frank Schmitz explained the background and meaning of the Year of German-American Friendship in the United States. He also briefly highlighted some important milestones in the long German-American friendship. In view of the markedly reduced number of U.S. troops and military families deployed in Germany since the end of the Cold War, the brigadier emphasized that cooperation and exchange programs had gained increased importance in terms of further promoting mutual understanding.

The opportunity to obtain the German marksmanship badge (Schützenschnur) and military proficiency badge during the event was seen by the U.S. soldiers as a privilege and expression of the special relations between the two armies. After all, the two badges are categorized as approved foreign awards which the U.S. soldiers are allowed to wear on their uniforms.

The approximately 250 U.S. soldiers being awarded the German marksmanship and military proficiency badges by Brigadier General Schmitz, Colonel Frietzsche, Colonel Busch, Colonel Schiff and Colonel Thieser, as well as their U.S. counterparts, was therefore undoubtedly an emotional and ceremonial highlight of the weeklong event. In addition, on arrival of the delegation, the 399th Army Band played the “General’s March” as a sign of special appreciation and to honor Brigadier General Schmitz.

The supporting program was rounded off with a tour and introduction of the leading-edge training facilities in Ft. Leonard Wood. This also included a visit to the Chemical Defense Training Facility (CDTF), to be reopened in April following extensive conversion work, which will enable live agent training for CBRN forces in an extremely realistic training environment.
All in all, the weeklong event was a highly informative and well organized occasion that received outstanding praise and recognition from both sides.
Special thanks is due to Major General Donna Martin and her team for the excellent support and outstanding hospitality on behalf of the U.S. Army, and to Lieutenant Colonel Veeck, the initiator and very capable German coordinator who successfully organized the event together with his team. Bravo zulu – well done!

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