Professional development opportunity takes officers, NCOs to former Cold War outpost
August 28, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Sixteen officers, senior noncommissioned officers and civilians took a trip back into the Cold War Aug. 2 as part of a professional development initiative.
The U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden leaders visited the Point Alpha Memorial near Fulda to get a better understanding of the history of events during the Cold War era and to build camaraderie in the unit.
"The museum on the former East German border was extremely informative," said Chaplain (Maj.) D. Craig Bickel, deputy garrison chaplain.
"One thought that I kept having was 'how would it feel to live in a country where they have to fence me in to keep me from leaving?' It was fascinating and somewhat troubling to hear the lengths the East Germans went to in order to prevent illegal exiting of their country.
"It was also very interesting to see the American outpost," Bickel said, "and imagine what it would be like to stand guard in the Fulda Gap during those Cold War years. I grew up during the Cold War and remember the fear of attack by the Soviets. Visiting Point Alpha brought the tension and challenge of the Cold War to life in a whole new way for me."
Subject matter experts on hand to describe life at Observation Point Alpha during the time when Germany was still separated into East and West included local guides and members of the garrison who once served as U.S. Soldiers at the post. Displays at the museum and memorial allow visitors to hear firsthand recordings of U.S. Soldiers who once resided on the post -- keeping a vigilant watch over movement beyond the barbed wire fences, tank traps and mined no-man's land separating East from West.
"The OPD to Point Alpha provided insight into the experience of a pivotal area at the forefront of the Cold War," said Capt. Jason Hinds, with the garrison's Plans, Analysis and Integration Office. "Of particular interest was the evolution of the wall from timber gates to a state-of-the-art security system -- and the propaganda used by the U.S.S.R. in convincing East Germans that the wall was to protect them."
Hinds added that he was impressed by the displays, saying, "The (former) U.S. base on Point Alpha is remarkably well maintained and informative.
"The potential level of destruction that would have occurred if an attack had taken place gives you a feel for the tension that must have existed in Germany during the Cold War and the level of responsibility placed upon those who served at Point Alpha," Hinds said.
For more information on the Point Alpha Memorial visit http://pointalpha.com/en.