MUNICH -- Meeting in person for the first time in three years, delegations representing the United States and German armies held annual Staff Talks to improve coordination and interoperability Jan. 24-26 in Munich, Germany.
U.S. Army Maj. Jeffery Fritz is assigned as the country desk officer for the U.S. at the German Army Command as part of the Military Personnel Exchange Program and organized this year’s Army Staff Talks.
The Military Personnel Exchange Program is a security cooperation program involving the reciprocal exchange of personnel between the U.S. Army and a similar unit in a foreign military service. The U.S. Army NATO Brigade provides support to 55 MPEP Soldiers at 44 locations in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.
“Our Army Staff Talks could not have come at a more important time given the current geopolitical situation,” said Fritz. “For the last three days both staffs were able to synchronize strategic engagement, interoperability and security cooperation between both our armies.”
Lt. Col. Christoph Kuhlmann, director of the Bilateral-Multilateral, International Cooperation Branch of German Army Command led the German delegation.
“We have a very long tradition of German and U.S. Army Staff Talks,” said Kuhlmann. “This coordination was very helpful in the past when we were facing the situation of the Cold war and our two nations’ cooperation was critical to NATO’s credibility and deterrence. What we have today, a strong link between Germany and the U.S., and our two armies in particular, sends a strong message of credibility and deterrence.”
Col. Jon Dunn, U.S. Army chief of Army International Affairs Division, G-3/5, Headquarters Department of the Army led the U.S. delegation.
“Germany is one of our closest allies, and we engage in a number of different ways bilaterally,” said Dunn. “Our senior leaders are constantly engaged, and this is the institutional level engagement we have with the German Army to synchronize our efforts towards a number of different goals, specifically increasing our interoperability so that we are able to work together, operate together, and deploy together anywhere in the world.”
Participants in the Staff Talks were divided into three working groups: Strategic Engagement, Interoperability, and Security Cooperation with subject matter experts from both countries assigned to each group.
Although the working groups ranged widely in their discussions, the heads of delegation both agreed that the most important aspect of the Staff Talks was ensuring the two partner nations military transformations are synchronized.
“Now, as the United States Army is going through one of its biggest transformations in 40 years, we want to make sure our closest allies and partners are staying informed of what we are doing, and where it makes sense, they are transforming in similar ways,” said Dunn.
“Our national defense strategy clearly identifies the security environment and identifies pacing challenges and acute challenges,” said Dunn, “…but what I like to highlight is the focus of that national defense strategy on incorporating allies and partners at every stage of the planning. And that’s what we’re doing here with our German counterparts during this staff process, showing them what we are doing in the design of Army 2030 and how we’re transforming from an air-land battle doctrine of circa 1985 to multi-domain operations.”
Kuhlmannn agreed with Dunn, highlighting that while Germany’s army is smaller than the U.S. Army, Germany’s regional expertise in the European Theater is an invaluable contribution to NATO’s security and deterrence efforts.
“For us to monitor how the U.S. Army is developing, what is changing, and which paths they are choosing, gives us the opportunity to organize, to synchronize, and thereby increasing our interoperability with the end goal of strengthening the European pillar of NATO,” said Kuhlmann, “which then is, of course, helping the U.S. interests.
“We have worked closely over the decades and always maintained this dialog and this exchange,” said Kuhlmann. “I think that everyone has the feeling that these days the relevance of what we are doing here and the opportunity to really make a difference has increased exponentially in particular starting last year.”
Both delegations celebrated the success of the Staff Talks with a dinner at the famous Munich Hofbrauhaus and a private tour of the restaurant by the owner as part of the program’s Cultural Exchange.
“The most rewarding part of this job for me is the opportunity to engage with our close allies and partners,” said Dunn. “Getting a chance to meet people in person and have frank and open discussions… is very reassuring and rewarding.”
Both delegations were able to conduct a tour of the headquarters of Krauss-Maffei Wegman, the manufacturer of the German Leopard main battle tank to get a better understanding of German armament capabilities and capacities.
By the end of the Staff Talks, the heads of the delegations agreed to focus on 27 specific tasks ranging from participation in large-scale exercises, bilateral cooperation in Arctic operations, development of long-range fires, and short-range air defense.
For more information about U.S. Army NATO Brigade go to www.usanato.army.mil.