LEIPZIG, Germany -- U. S. Army Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Hilbert, Commander 7th Army Training Command, visited with German government officials and youth during a visit to Leipzig, sponsored by the U.S. Consulate Leipzig, Dec. 6.
During the visit, Hilbert and U.S. Consul General Ken Toko met with 11th grade students at the Gerda-Taro-Schule for a discussion that ranged from current events in Ukraine and the reasons for the U.S. military’s posture in Germany, to humorous observations about differences between German and American cultures.
“Many people in the former East Germany have not grown up seeing U.S. Soldiers in their neighborhood,” Toko said. “Providing them a venue to meet a senior Army officer and learn about the military, and the Americans who serve in it, is a great way to challenge stereotypes and build rapport.”
The school engagement was part of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Germany’s ‘Meet US’ program, which brings together secondary school students in Germany to engage with Americans to give youth a better understanding of the U.S.
More information on the Meet US program can be found at https://de.usembassy.gov/meet-us/.
Hilbert also met with graduate students and post-graduate students in the security studies fields for a discussion.
“I was extremely impressed by the candor and intellectual curiosity from both students in their advanced studies and those at the Gerda-Taro-Schule,” Hilbert said. “They didn’t shy away from tough questions, and it’s important for us as guests here to build a dialogue with younger generations of Germans about the NATO Alliance and our mission here.”
The consulate in Leipzig is one of five U.S. consulates in the Federal Republic of Germany, and the only one that completely encompasses an area of the former Soviet satellite German Democratic Republic. The consulate was originally established in 1826, but closed during World War II and during GDR times, re-opening after the collapse of communism in 1992.
“The U.S. Consulate in Leipzig was originally established in 1826 primarily to support our commercial ties with this region. Since our re-opening in 1992, we’ve expanded our role to strengthen broader people-to-people ties between our two countries, including cultural, economic, and educational connections,” Toko said. “Many people in Mitteldeutschland have had very little to no interaction with the United States, so it’s important for us to be out there meeting people face-to-face.”
Hilbert also met with German Army Maj. Gen. Michael Hochwart, commander of Germany’s Army Training Command, to discuss ongoing and future partnership efforts between the two training commands, and discussed cultural connections and opportunities with Bundestag member and Olympic cycling champion Jens Lehmann.
Hilbert and his family were stationed in Leipzig from 2003 to 2005, where he earned his master’s degree at the University of Leipzig as an Olmsted Scholar.
“My time at the University in Leipzig was an invaluable experience personally and professionally,” Hilbert said. “It expanded my own views on ‘how to think’ and exposed me to a very different academic environment than my own previous undergraduate study.”
The 7th Army Training Command is the U.S. Army’s only overseas training command and responsible for the 17,000 Soldiers and approximately 45,000 members of the U.S Army community in Bavaria. Hilbert is also the senior trainer for the entire U.S. Army Europe and Africa area of responsibility, to include the state of Saxony.
Although the state of Saxony does not host any permanent U.S. forces, its location is often a key transit point for troops and equipment moving to exercises and activities in Eastern Europe, such as the upcoming Saber Strike exercise in February and March.
The 7th Army Training Command Noncommissioned Officers Academy in Grafenwoehr is also partnered with the German Army’s NCO School (Unteroffizierschule des Heeres), located in the city of Delitzsch in Saxony.
From the period of 1945 to the end of the Cold War, more than 70 million Americans rotated through Western Germany as Soldiers, while civilian employees and families were stationed in hundreds of installations.
“There’s a very different history and relationship here with the U.S. Army obviously than with German states that traditionally have hosted U.S. forces,” Hilbert said. “So there’s an understanding and relationships that didn’t happen here, and any chance we have to get in the same room and connect with people helps us to strengthen those same friendships here. It’s incredibly important to not just the U.S. Army, but for the German-American relationship.”
Learn more about 7th Army Training Command: https://www.7atc.army.mil/
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