WIESBADEN, Germany -- Soldiers from the 24th Military Intelligence Battalion conducted a small arms range at Wackernheim with members of their Bundeswehr (German army) partner unit, the 923rd Elektronische Kampfführung (EloKa) Battalion.

Fourteen German Soldiers qualified on the M16 (two achieved expert; three sharpshooter; and nine marksman). Six qualified on the M9 (four expert and two sharpshooter).

24th MI Executive Officer Maj. Joan Hollein and other 24th MI leaders traveled one and a half hours north of Wiesbaden to the battalion's post in Frankenburg to award the Soldiers their medals March 20.

"It really helps to bring the partnership concept to reality when they are physically part of our ceremonies. Being assigned to Germany is a very unique opportunity for U.S. forces, and getting the chance to interface with a foreign military is one of the greatest benefits," Hollein said. "We are really fortunate to have such a strong historic connection and friendship with our partner unit. The participation with the 932rd has really built a strong camaraderie and I believe the U.S. Soldiers enjoy seeing our partner Soldiers."

The 24th MI has a solid partnership with the 932rd, spanning 33 years. In the past year the 24th has participated in their change of command ceremony, organizational day, ranges and training exercises. Sometimes they train together before deployments.

Master Sgt. Nikolai Klaas, a signal battalion non-commissioned officer responsible for vehicles and education of recruits, qualified as a marksman with the rifle. He said he has shot with American soldiers while deployed in Afghanistan but this was his first time qualifying.

"It was a nice day, great experience, and everyone was very kind," he said. "American soldiers are very professional, very helpful, and we got training on the rifle and pistols."

Foreign military members are eligible to receive U.S. military awards, according to Army Regulation 600-8-22. Typically they have been awarded achievement medals while working with U.S. forces on deployments, such as in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Likewise, U.S. soldiers regularly participate in a similar qualifications event, involving shooting and other skills, and are awarded the Schützenschnuror, or German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge.

In the Bundeswehr, Soldiers have to qualify on all the weapons, and they don't train on iron sights (an aiming device) because their rifles have built-in optical sights -- but that's where most differences end.

"I think the best parts of the interaction were the down times when we shared stories of family and personal experiences," said Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Hudson, NCO in charge of the range. "I remember a conversation Sgt. Maj. (Michael) Frank and I had about our children. At the end, we both agreed that we're all the same when it comes to family and children."

Hollein added that both armies share the same challenges when it comes military training events and deployments. While they have they evolved through the years, they are still full of strong Soldiers committed to serving their countries.

Frank, NCOIC for the EloKa battalion, agreed.

"The biggest thing we've learned is that we are not that different," he said.