The opportunity to serve as a liaison officer for a Soldier can present itself at any time, any place. These opportunities can occur in everyday life, such as meeting a stranger in at the commissary, starting a new job, or in many cases, being introduced to foreign soldiers, while traveling the world to accomplish the mission. These encounters can provide many beneficial aspects, including lasting friendships.
Lt. Col. Andreas Wiechert, German liaison officer for Fort Bragg, assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps, understands the importance of relationships and the work it requires to maintain them. He is the link between the U.S. Army paratroopers and the German Division Special Operations.
Wiechert believes that the relationships between the German and U.S. Army has declined since the 1980s as far as the ability to train together.
In the past, entire German companies would train with the U.S. troop at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La. and in other major events. However, this is not so today. Nevertheless, Wiechert is hopeful and said he is determined to improve the situation for both the United States and Germany.
“I’d like to reanimate this relationship within the airborne,” said Wiechert. Some of his ideas to improve the camaraderie between the two countries are incorporating more German operations into the annual training requirements for the XVIII Airborne Corps, such as a joint operations access exercise. He hopes to bring more Germans to the United States for future training and vice versa, with sending American troops to Germany to train.
Other events, like Toy Drop and the German Proficiency Badge, are annual occurrences already set in place and are the “door opener to make friends.” The countries build upon established interactions and learn from them to create new and better ideas for future operations.
Maj. John Copeland, brigade operations officer for the 16th Military Police brigade, is no stranger to working jointly with civilians and Soldiers from different countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Germany, Afghanistan and Iraq in order to achieve a common goal.
In April, Copeland served as a safety alongside the German jump master team during Operation Federal Eagle, which is a German airborne operation with American support where Americans adhere to the German commands and procedures to earn their foreign jump wings.
Even working in the capacity as a safety allowed Copeland to act as a liaison between the American Soldiers the German jump master team. Copeland ensured that Soldiers achieved “equal understanding” and helped to bridge gaps when different procedures and protocols were implemented.
“Developing relationships and understanding now about how other nations’ militaries operate may be invaluable,” said Copeland.
There are some differences in the operating procedures of XVIII Airborne Corps and German airborne. For instance, Germans airborne operations can perform static line jumps and high altitude, low opening jumps on the same lift. Static line jumps leave first, then the aircraft climbs to higher altitude to release the HALO jumpers. For the XVIII Abn. Corps, static lines and HALO are two separate lifts.
Soldiers from the XVIII Abn. Corps were not able to conduct tandem jumps with the German Soldiers during this year’s Federal Eagle, but Wiechert, with more than 2000 jumps himself, believes it is a very important aspect to airborne operations, particularly for non-airborne qualified personnel.
“We use non-airborne personnel because tandem masters have to bring in specialists who are untrained in HALO jumps to the battlefield, like doctors and engineers,” Wiechert said. Conducting tandem jumps is precisely how the German army transports its non-airborne personnel to their mission
For Wiechert, the most important aspect to Federal Eagle is not the jump itself, but rather the relationships that develop between the Germans and the Americans.
“The wing exchange is just the visible sign of our friendship,” said Wiechert. More than 1,000 foreign jump wings were given out in the four-day operation. Operations like Federal Eagle are a symbolic way of saying “thank you” from the Germans to the Americans. “If we train together, fight together, then we can jump together,” Wiechert said.
“The fact that two generations ago, our nations were enemies and now we are trusted partners willing to allow each nation to lead the other’s Soldiers is not lost on me,” said Copeland. “The camaraderie developed between brothers and sisters in arms cannot be duplicated,” he said.
“It’s really amazing how fast the relationship has developed, and operations like Federal Eagle are a great way to show this relationship,” said Wiechert as he agreed with Copeland.
Even though countries may have different cultures, opinion, beliefs, etc. those differences can help the betterment and transformation of friendships. “It’s not a secret that people work better together, not alone; all countries should try to understand each other,” said Wiechert.