By Sgt. 1st Class Crista Mary Mack,October 3, 2016
WIESBADEN, Germany -- U.S. Army Europe Soldiers embedded in the ranks and countries of foreign allied militaries convened at the annual Military Personnel Exchange Program, a Dept. of the Army program Assessment conference, to share lessons learned and prepare for the future.
"This was a valuable once a year opportunity for this group of U.S. Exchange
Officers and NCOs to come together, receive the latest guidance from Lt. Gen. Ben
Hodges (USAREUR commanding general) and the USAREUR Staff, share ideas and challenges, and network with one another," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Douglas Crissman, currently serving as the deputy commanding general, 3d (United Kingdom) Division, United Kingdom.
Crissman is assigned as the deputy commanding general of a British division and the highest ranking MPEP in the Army. He is one of 56 officers and noncommissioned offers from the U.S. Army serving in positions in foreign militaries as MPEPS.
"The role of MPEPs varies greatly by country but the challenges we face are very similar," Crissman said. "We are an enabling force for USAREUR and this conference provided a useful forum to communicate that value to the 42 attendees spread across the USAREUR area of responsibility."
Lee Fennema, program manager for the Military Exchange Program for the School of other nations said, the conference serves two main purposes, first for the exchange officers to return from their international settings and share lessons learned with each other, and secondly, to take care of administrative tasks that cannot normally be conducted in remote areas such as uniform and equipment maintenance, medical visits, dental, taking the language renewal tests.
It also provides USAREUR an opportunity to share guidance on current strategies, goals and cooperation, Fennema said.
"We are partnering at the lowest level, at the company level, platoon level, with our greatest allies and partners," Fennema said. "It's not a whole brigade that they are sending into one element, its one person, and that one person is the ambassador not only for the U.S. Army but also for the United States."
Fennema, a former U.S. Army aviator himself, had the opportunity while he was a captain to serve for three years with the program, embedded with the British Armed Forces.
"When I was there, it was the most patriotic I've ever felt, because I was the American that they knew," he said. "And they knew me from socializing to combat. So I know exactly what these folks are going through. These folks are representing us well and enhancing our security cooperation with our allies."
The program is looking for interested applicants, for officers from the ranks of captain to brigadier general level, and for enlisted Soldiers from staff sergeant through sergeant major with the ability or propensity to speak a foreign language. The Army will train those accepted to the program at language school, Fennema said.
Currently, the program in Europe sends individuals to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Foreign military schools are also included in the program, and U.S. Army representatives are sent to schools across Europe, such as the Irish Command and Staff College in Ireland, the Baltics Defence College in Estonia and the Escole de Guerre, Joint Staff Course in France. Plans are in place to expand the exchange program to more countries.
"I am honored to be able to serve as the American Military representative for the NCO Academy for the German Armed Forces," said Sgt. Maj. Steven Hahn, sergeant major instructor at the German NCO Academy Delitzsch. Hahn, like all participants in the program, works every day with a foreign military. "I find teaching and coaching the German Soldiers, NCOs, and officers very rewarding; as I get to interact with every level of their Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development
Anyone interested in participating in the MPEP program or looking for more information, contact Army Human Resources through ones individual unit.
About us: U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.