WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 31, 2014) -- A retired Army major who now oversees the service's personnel exchange program and sends Soldiers to schools of other nations became the first American civilian at the Pentagon to be presented the German Silver Cross of Honor of the Bundeswehr.

The medal was presented to John C. Wirick on behalf of the German minister of defense, during a ceremony Thursday, at the Pentagon. Col. Klaus Finck, a German military attaché, pinned the medal on Wirick's chest. The medal is part of the order of the Iron Cross.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, former director of the Army Strategy, Plans and Policy, International Affairs division, opened the presentation by welcoming guests. In attendance were Finck and his assistants, Wirick's wife, Angelika, colleagues and friends. The general pointed out that it is one thing to be recognized by your own organization, but it is very special to be recognized by an ally. He then turned the presentation over to Finck.

"We have gathered here today, to pay tribute to a wonderful colleague, and a true friend of Germany who deserves special recognition for his commitment and dedication to German-American friendship as a whole, but also especially for his meritorious service to the German Army," the colonel said. He noted that Wirick deserved the medal for all he had done to further bilateral cooperation between the U.S., and German armies.

As head of the Army's Military Personnel Exchange Program, Wirick and his staff manage 142 personnel exchanges around the world with 16 countries, to include assignments of foreign general officers as deputy commanders of American units. Presently, his office is staffing a German general to serve as chief of staff of U.S. Army Europe.

Wirick also oversees 35 Soldier slots for the Schools of Other Nations program, in which Army officers attend the staff and war colleges of partner nations worldwide.

"His single most notable achievement in the recent past is that he helped create the legal conditions on the American side to send two German staff officers of colonel rank as instructors to teaching institutions of the U.S. Army," the citation stated. "It is solely due to his tireless efforts and creative course of action that the two officers were able to take up their positions in the U.S. as early as this year. He thus substantially advanced German military interests within the U.S. Army forces."

After Finck awarded Wirick the medal, and his wife a bouquet of flowers, Wirick expressed his thanks to the Germans, colleagues, Snow and his wife.

"This is really incredible ... an award like this certainly isn't just me; it's the whole team, from leadership down to my right-hand man and all the colleagues and folks we have to work with to get these things done with Germany," Wirick said.