REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – We are all familiar with foreign exchange students. Schools in the United States host students from other countries who seek new learning environments and vice versa. Thanks to the Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP), this international exchange concept is also a reality for those in the federal workforce.
The ESEP is a professional development exchange program that provides career-broadening work assignments for U.S. military and government defense personnel in foreign defense establishments. These exchanges promote International Cooperative Research, Development and Acquisition activity between the participating countries by providing a basis for further cooperation and cementing the U.S. Army’s relationship with its foreign partners. Exchanges are conducted under the auspices of international bilateral Memoranda of Agreements/Understandings (MOAs/MOUs). In FY22, an engineer from the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center was selected to live and work in Germany as part of this program.
Matt Lucas, a subject matter expert at RTC’s Climatic Test Division within the Environmental and Component Test Directorate, recently spent a year at Bundeswehr Technical Center 91 for Weapons and Munitions (WTD 91), which is a test range in Meppen, Germany, responsible for testing the whole portfolio of gun, rocket and missile weapon systems, and their equivalent payloads.
At RTC, Lucas’ primary focus is implementing new technologies to support modernization, improving existing test procedures while developing new ones, as well as leading unique climatic testing efforts.
“My area of expertise is Climatic Testing, so I was happy to support the group in this area, at the same time I was given tasks to broaden my areas of testing expertise,” said Lucas. “I supported several areas such as: U.S./German test programs, R&D collaboration, as well as NATO and international test standardization efforts.”
Although Lucas’ assignment in Germany testing weapons systems was similar to his work at RTC, it provided him several opportunities to expand his foundational skills.
“I still remember the first telephone call we had and I explained to him that he would see the whole process of testing complete weapon systems and not only "modules" or the environmental testing”, explained Thorsten Sarrach, Branch chief of Rockets, Missiles, Drones and Drop Munitions for German Armed Forces Technical Center for Weapons and Ammunition, “I told him that he will have the chance to be involved in planning different tests, including the environmental part and that this inclusion would give us a huge benefit in better understanding the needs of environmental testing. In other words: it was a win-win situation for both sides. And I strongly believe it worked out that way”.
Lucas, excited about the professional possibilities that accompanied this assignment, said it would not have been possible without the support of his wife Amy and their four school-aged children, all of whom accompanied him to Germany.
“There were challenges in bringing a family to a new country, but I think everyone enjoyed the adventure,” said Lucas. “Our family homeschools and that afforded us the ability to learn many things firsthand in various European cities. Our location in Germany was not near a US base and had less English speakers which enabled us all to learn conversational level German. The children were also able to take local horse-riding lessons and we were able to be active with a local church.”
The Lucas family has since returned to Alabama and Lucas is back at RTC equipped with new experiences and expertise gained during his time in Germany. He intends to put those lessons learned to good use supporting the Warfighter. As for his overall impression of ESEP, Lucas had this to say: “It’s a good program that allows for learning a new culture, building relationships, and increasing technical knowledge.”