By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)May 3, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (May 3, 2013) -- The grounds were wholly quiet at the Reinhardt Kaserne, a German army garrison, at Ellwangen April 24; the day was bright and clear. Within a conference room of the Sprachenzentrum of the Bundessprachenamt, or language center of the Federal Office of Languages, there was talking.
Two Soldiers and a Department of the Army civilian from U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach had been invited to provide a brief on the structure of the Army and its rank system to the students of the Sprachenzentrum, who were mostly members of the German military. Sgt. Christopher Buchanan, reserve component career counselor, Capt. Travis Oscarson, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and John O'Brien, civilian misconduct officer, represented USAG Ansbach to help familiarize members of the German military and government with both the fundamentals of U.S. Army organization and how their American partners spoke English.
"There is a [different] kind of language -- there's a kind of English, even another kind of German -- military speech," said Torsten Schäufele, chief of administration for the Sprachenzentrum. "Our students are here to learn the military speech … so they can work together."
"From a language perspective, a lot of these structures and concepts are the same for the Germans, maybe a little bit different," said Tiryn Piemontese-Fischer, an instructor at the language center. "When Captain Oscarson, Mr. O'Brien or Master Sergeant Buchanen are talking, then they can see the difference and view the concepts actually being used."
According to Piemontese-Fischer, the new but somewhat familiar knowledge of the American military structure reinforces the language skills the students have already learned in class during their three-month or six-week language course.
"It's enough information where they know what's going on, but at the same time it's not all what they know," he said. "It's nice having real service members speaking real English."
"The foundation and intent behind the course that they're in is that English is the most common language utilized in the joint national campaigns or actions," said O'Brien. "They're learning … from teachers that have been taught to teach theoretical application. Whereas when we go in and we talk to them, we're not teaching them theory, we're coming to them from a perspective of having been there and done that. Even if we're not talking about a specific application of our interaction in a combat arena, for them it drives home that what they've been learning has application if they haven't had the opportunity to work in one of those multinational campaigns."
"To hear actual Soldiers speak English, it's very important," said Frank Walther, a student of the center. "It's very important to hear how they speak and pronounce in their own English."
"It was well prepared," said Ullrich Ingo, another student. "I learned about the officer's work and the warrant officer I didn't know before."
Buchanan was surprised at how knowledgeable the students of the center were already.
"They asked some very good questions," he said. "I'm always surprised at how much knowledge German soldiers have of the American Army. Today a guy asked a question about retirement. He knew at 20 years I could retire and get a pension. And he was confident that it was 50 percent of my pay. They know a lot about us, and that's something that we could probably do better at as an American Army, to learn more about our counterparts."
Oscarson felt that doing the brief was a conduit for mutual understanding that was as beneficial to them as it was to the Sprachenzentrum.
"We live in Germany," said Oscarson. "We're military service members, and we don't understand our host nation partners. If we don't understand them, how do we fight with them? My honest opinion is we go out to do this so they understand us and we gain an understanding of them.
"If a unit is not partnering with the Germans, then they're screwing up," Oscarson continued. "They give us so much more than we could offer them. … They've taught me a ton of stuff about being a Soldier. You see how they do it, and when you go to Afghanistan and fight next to them, you understand them."