PFULLENDORF, Germany - The U.S. military and other contributing NATO members celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the International Special Training Center (ISTC), June 25. As the only combined, international training center used by NATO, the Center reduces training costs for the nine partner nations of Germany, Belgium, Greece, the United States, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Turkey by sharing the costs of personnel manning, equipment, and training resources. Guest speaker, Maj. Gen, Thomas Csrnko, commander of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, said the ISTC may one day become the NATO Center of Excellence for Special Operations at the tactical level.
The ISTC is a unique example of NATO military training and cooperation. With an ability to blend the tactics, techniques and procedures of not only multiple units, but also multiple countries, the ISTC has created a common frame of reference among the nine NATO nations' corps of officers and non-commissioned officers, resulting in improved interoperability during missions in Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The ISTC trains NATO Special Operations Forces, and similar type units, in advanced individual patrolling, medical, close quarter battle, sniper, survival, planning, and recognition skills. It was established in 1979, and first called the International Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School (ILRRPS) formerly located in Weingarten, Germany.
"It was an unusual school in my day," said Joseph McCready, an ISTC instructor from 1984 to 1987 and former chief warrant officer in the British Royal Air Force. "It was an original idea to combine international Special Forces communication because, by nature, Special Forces Soldiers are very secretive,"
The ISTC was the brain-child of a 1974 European and NATO Army Sub-Group Conference, which suggested the centralization of training for long range reconnaissance patrol units and Special Operation Forces in a joint training facility in Europe. The first memorandum of understanding was signed on August 1,1980, by Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom establishing the center in Weingarten, Germany, until its subsequent move to Pfullendorf in August 1997.
Now located at the General Oberst von Fritsch Kaserne in Pfullendorf, Germany, the 30th Anniversary celebration was a time for former students and instructors to come together to pay homage.
"It is very unique that you have a brotherhood of Special Forces with a mutual understanding of special operations and small unit tactics," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Eyer of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division, and a former ISTC instructor from 1988-1991. "It has been a tremendous honor to be associated with a small, but unique organization."
The nine NATO member nations work together to ensure daily operation of the center; originally ten nations strong, the United Kingdom, who played a pivotal role in the center's founding and operations, bowed out in 2001 making the United States the de facto lead nation
In May 2001, the ILRRPS was christened the ISTC. Under the direction of the Joint Multinational Training Command, the Army's only training command in Europe, the ISTC continues to play an integral role in the U.S. European Command Theater Security Cooperation initiatives, since it trains members of ally nations before deployment on NATO operations.
The instructors at the center are comprised of officers and non-commissioned officers from the nine NATO nations involved in its operation.
"As an instructor and an NCOIC of the ILRRP School, I learned the intricacies of working with the elite soldiers of eight allied nations, which is something I've imparted to Soldiers in the years past and today, said Sgt. Maj. Antonio Reyes, Deputy Commandant of the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) in Grafenwoehr, Germany. This year the NCOA graduated more than 2000 NCOs and of those about 70 were international students.
"We regularly have international students attend the academy and it is imperative that the students learn to work together to accomplish the mission."
"Command here is less about directing and more about influencing and mentoring to get 45 men and women from different nations to work together in spite of differences in culture and military tradition," said Lt. Col. David L. Grosso, out-going commander. "We train the sons and daughters of nine nations, who after training here, will deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa. Nothing can be more sacred."