• U.S. and German soldiers fire weapons during the German marksmanship range near Orahovac, Kosovo, April 7. Multinational events like the Schutzenschnur range and the Danish Contingency march gives U.S. Soldiers a chance to bond with multinational partners on a personal level.

    Manning the machine gun

    U.S. and German soldiers fire weapons during the German marksmanship range near Orahovac, Kosovo, April 7. Multinational events like the Schutzenschnur range and the Danish Contingency march gives U.S. Soldiers a chance to bond with multinational...

  • U.S. Army Spc. Courtney Gonzalez, a native of Salt Lake City and an aviation operations specialist with 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, Utah National Guard, fires at targets with a USP pistol during the German marksmanship range near Orahovac, Kosovo, April 7.

    Aiming for perfection

    U.S. Army Spc. Courtney Gonzalez, a native of Salt Lake City and an aviation operations specialist with 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, Utah National Guard, fires at targets with a USP pistol during the German marksmanship range near Orahovac...

  • U.S. and German soldiers check targets after firing the MG3 machine gun during the German marksmanship range near Orahovac, Kosovo, April 7. The German army familiarized U.S. forces with the MG3 machine gun and the USP pistol, and served as coaches during the event.

    Checking their targets

    U.S. and German soldiers check targets after firing the MG3 machine gun during the German marksmanship range near Orahovac, Kosovo, April 7. The German army familiarized U.S. forces with the MG3 machine gun and the USP pistol, and served as coaches...

ORAHOVAC, Kosovo -- I'll never forget the first time I saw the German Armed Forces Badge of Marksmanship, more commonly known as the Schutzenschnur (pronounced "shoots-zen-snare"). I was a young Private First Class in Baumholder, Germany during a typical Class A inspection. When I saw the badge, I thought it was awesome and I wanted to obtain it for myself.

When the opportunity finally came to participate 14 years later, I didn't hesitate to jump at the chance. What I did get, however, was far more valuable than a lanyard and a medal; it was a better understanding of the importance of spending time with our multinational partners.

Events like the Schutzenschnur range and the Danish Contingency (DANCON) march, held on April 5, gives U.S. Soldiers a chance to bond with our multinational partners, while also building relationships on a personal level.

With language typically being the most common communication barrier, it is easy for soldiers of all armies to congregate with their own teams, rather than meet someone new. As Americans, it is especially difficult for us to venture out of our comfort zones and interact with foreigners.

From the moment the 19 U.S. Soldiers got off the bus, the Germans treated us as brothers-in-arms. They familiarized us with the MG3 machine gun and the USP pistol, served as firing coaches, and even brought in delicious German food for us at lunch.

I took the opportunity to practice some of my limited German with the soldiers. They appreciated my poor attempt at their language and we all shared a laugh. Some U.S. and German soldiers exchanged unit patches, while others told stories about what bases they had enjoyed most in their careers.

Despite our differences in languages or weapon systems, I realized that our armies are identical -- troops that have a spent over a decade fighting for peace somewhere in the world. It was easy to identify with them, because at the end of the day, in some way, shape or form, we had all fought the same fight.

It is the same all over the world, whether working with the German or Afghan armies to the Kosovo or Iraqi police. Working in a NATO organization opened my eyes to the fact that, although it feels lonely on deployments, there are others around the world experiencing those same hardships.

Soldiers should be highly encouraged to spend time with our multinational counterparts. It adds a dimension to the time spent deployed that one can cherish and remember for a lifetime. Who knows, you may also make a new friend as well.

At the end of the range, we were given the announcement on whether or not we qualified for the Schutzenschnur lanyard. When it was announced that I received the Gold medal, the highest class, I was filled with great pride in my achievement.

Departing back to base, however, I was also filled with a newfound respect and admiration for what it meant being a member of a 'multinational' battle group, and that's a badge of honor I can wear forever.

Page last updated Thu April 10th, 2014 at 00:00