The XVIII Airborne Corps has a German army staff, which operates here on Fort Bragg and is readily available to provide training assistance to all of the post’s Soldiers.
That’s the message the German army Lt. Col. Andreas Wiechert and Sgt. Maj. Ronny Hahnlein wants to convey to the community.
Wiechert, the XVIII Abn. Corps German liaison staff officer, arrived at Fort Bragg in late August. He and Hahnlein, the German army liaison sergeant major said they want to be known as an asset to the corps and its Soldiers, but the first step is to let Fort Bragg’s paratroopers know who they are.
“I think it’s important to introduce ourselves to the paratroopers,” Wiechert explained. “I don’t think many Soldiers know that we have a German liaison staff. Many times if I’m shopping at the mini-mall or in other facilities and I meet the U.S. Soldiers during lunch, I’m always asked if I’m here for training or to make a (airborne jump wings) exchange or something like that.
“There is always a big surprise when I tell them, ‘no, I’m the German liaison officer to the XVIII Airborne Corps,’” he continued. “Their response is, ‘oh wow, we have a position like that.’ They simply didn’t know.”
Wiechert has been in the German army since 1984.
“We are not here just to sit in the office,” he said. “One aspect of our job is to write reports and to handle all of the work that goes with handing the international business, but the main task is to build connections that will allow us to exchange experiences. You cannot do that if you don’t know who is in which position and their responsibility. Therefore, we must go out and meet the Soldiers, especially those in key positions and jump together, train together and exchange wings.”
Wiechert replaced Lt. Col. Christoph Boecker, who returned to Germany in early August.
“For me this is a chance to see the country and to learn more about the people and the American culture and all about the U.S. armed forces, especially the American paratroopers,” Wiechert explained. “In addition to that, this position is very interesting because I think the focus of our task is not only to exchange wings and have sporting events, but the main goal is to exchange experiences.”
He said that entails exchanging concepts about training exercises, missions and other related ideas.
Weichert added that his assignment provides an opportunity for the German army and the XVIII Airborne Corps to support one another and the additional opportunity to confirm the relationship between the two armies.
“I think that we can learn a lot about the training skills of the U.S. paratroopers. Some of the techniques between paratroopers of both countries are similar, but there are also differences. Many of the differences are based on the (deployment) experiences,” Wiechert added. “This is where we can learn a lot. Nevertheless, we also know that the U.S. forces are downsizing now in its deployment missions and one of the biggest challenges will be to bring them back into the world of training and exercises.”
“It could be difficult in getting them adjusted to returning to a training environment,” he said. “Maybe this is a point where we can support them.”
Hahnlein, a German special forces soldier, said coming to Fort Bragg was an ideal assignment for him.
“I feel great,” he said about being at Fort Bragg. “I think it’s a great time to be here. I’m a special forces guy and I did a lot of training here before and for me, it’s the best place to be because this is the home of the airborne and special forces. It’s really interesting.”
He said in order to establish a relationship with their U.S. counterparts, they must do one thing — talk.
“It’s important to talk to the people. Sometimes small talk is very important and I like to take part in as many events as I can, such as shopping, sports events and celebrating the 4th of July, in addition to participating in exercise or courses together so that the Soldiers can see us as much as possible.”