Story by Sgt. Daniel J. Friedberg
7th MSC Public Affairs Office

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany--The 7th Mission Support Command's 209th Digital Liaison Detachment supported a demonstration of a large-scale tactical interoperability exercise during Joint Warfighting Assessment at Grafenwoehr Training Area.

During the exercise, the Army Reserve Soldiers of the 209th DLD teamed up with German and British coalition infantry brigade units April 18-May 9 in support of the US Army's 1st Infantry Division.

"The goal of the exercise is to demonstrate the unit's ability to provide interoperability and common understanding between coalition brigades as well as 1st ID headquarters," said Col. John E. Dethlefs, the commander of the 209th DLD.

Interoperability meant that his Soldiers were providing data system support necessary for tactical and logistical operations for two out of four non-US coalition units assigned to the 1st ID during the exercise, he said.

After rolling out from its base at USAG Wiesbaden in Wackernheim, Germany to U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria's training area at Grafenwoehr for JWA 18, the 209th DLD split into two teams according to plan, he added.

One team went to the United Kingdom's 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade and one team joined with the German Army's 23rd Mountain Infantry Brigade (23.Gebirgsjaegerbrigade, Heer).

The 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade and the French 7th Armoured Brigade, also provided coalition support to the 1st ID at JWA 18, though not directly supported by the 209th DLD.

The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command was also evaluating the 209th DLD's effectiveness during the exercise to further optimize and modernize coalition military operations and coordination.

According to Dethlefs, JWA 18 was a great opportunity for his unit to integrate on a very large stage not just with NATO units but also with a U.S. Army active duty division.

"The JWA facilitated collective training of mission essential tasks for both the Active Duty and Reserve Components," he said.

According to Dethlefs, working with both the German and British coalition units during JWA 18 has gone well but units experienced friction sorting out the smaller details in operative execution which is typical to any units training together for the first time.

"We are all a part of NATO and we go to many of the same schools, so we have a solid foundation, but we all learned a lot in terms of digital interoperability and combined operations with our partners," he said of the European military units he has observed.

Dethlefs also underscored the fact that good Digital Liaison Soldiers personally work as military ambassadors to our NATO coalition partners in support of shared values and interests.

"We have technical jobs but we also build relationships," Dethlefs said.

For Sgt. 1st Class Jason D. Brant, a logistics NCO from the 209th DLD, building relationships here in Europe is second nature.

Like many of the more than 900 Army Reserve Soldiers in the 7th MSC, Brant said that he lives as a civilian in Germany, speaks the language and therefore has a close personal connection to his country of residence.

"I really wanted to be on the team to work with the Bundeswehr," said Brant.

Brant also explained that the technical knowledge and understanding of the German Army Soldiers for the US data exchange systems was advanced after decades of being a close NATO partner to the US Military.

"The Germans already know the system," said Brant.

According to Brant, his German Army counterparts have also shown good flexibility when occasional system integration issues arise.

"The procedures are similar and the Germans are precise and accurate," said Brant.

For German Army Sgt. 1st Class Joel Burghardt, a fire mission specialist with 5th Company, 233rd Mountain Infantry Battalion, 23rd Infantry Brigade, the work with the 209th DLD has been simplified by the fact that the German data systems already operate well with the US military's digital infrastructure.

"It's easier to be integrated due to our systems," said Burghardt.