FARGO, N.D. - It's not unusual for an Air Defense Artillery officer to train at Camp Grafton Training Center, near Devils Lake, N.D. It's unusual for that soldier to hail from overseas, though.

Michael Kettl - whose rank of Hauptmann der Reserve is comparable to captain rank in the Army National Guard - spent the past two weeks training in North Dakota. The personal relationships he made and situations he experienced will return to Germany with him, he said.

"The biggest thing to take back with me to Germany is how you Soldiers are accepted and valued in the American society," Kettl said. "Germany society unfortunately doesn't really know yet the true value of its forces and the fact that the Soldiers are risking their lives every day down range."

While Kettl has not deployed, he has served in locations across Germany and Austria. He was able to visit with his host, Maj. Jaime Stephan, about North Dakota's overseas missions. Stephan deployed to Iraq in 2003-05 with the 141st Engineer Combat Battalion and now serves with Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

"The trip was as educational for me as it was for him," Stephan said. "The biggest part of these exchanges is getting to know the person, the country, their military capabilities, cultural differences and communication needs. It has been an excellent opportunity for me to learn how in the future to work with the German Army. It gives me the communication skills to ask or convey an order or operation and how to ensure they understand it. The language barriers we face with other countries is sometimes not understood; we may say something and they will understand something totally different, so these exchanges give us a big advantage on communication. Plus, it is also a huge bonus for the U.S. on foreign relations."

While Kettl was in North Dakota, he joined with the 141st at Camp Grafton as they conducted Annual Training, which incorporates a variety of military tasks.

"I had a wonderful time here with you and got to learn a lot about the capability of the engineers and the structure of the National Guard and the Army Reserve - the way they train and what equipment they use. It was a great experience," Kettl said. "Another two events that I'll never forget will be the demolition range and the Humvee ride. And, of course, there's the rappel tower, going down 'Aussie' style."

This wasn't Kettl's first trip to the states, nor his first time training with Americans, but it was the first time he was able to do both together. His previous trips to the U.S. were for vacations.

"It was my first military training in the U.S.," he said. "My unit had a partnership with 4-3 ADA, stationed in Kitzingen until they left Germany, and still has a partnership with 5-7 ADA today, stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany. That gave me the opportunity to train with Americans before, which was a lot of fun. That was one of the main reasons that made me apply for this exchange program."

While called an exchange, a North Dakota Soldier won't actually visit Germany in return. Rather, an active-duty U.S. Soldier will train in Germany as part of the program. Nonetheless, the relationships built won't soon be forgotten.

"My reception here could not have been friendlier," Kettl said. "My host did an awesome job on making me feel comfortable. I now feel like a part of his family, and we will definitely stay friends in the future. We already made plans for future visits in Germany and the States."

He went on to comment on the other North Dakota Soldiers he trained with this month.

"I think the North Dakota Soldiers are very well-trained and experienced and know their jobs and equipment very well. It's been a great honor for me to learn from them and be able to train with them."
<i>Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 600 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.

High-resolution photos to accompany this release are available on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard. Navigate to the photo set titled "German Exchange Officer."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16