SEMBACH, Germany – U.S. Army NATO hosted a week of training for U.S. Military Personnel Exchange Program Soldiers Nov. 5-10.
The weeklong event kicked off with hearing, vision, height and weight, and other medical readiness requirements organized by the U.S. Army NATO G9.
“This was excellent training,” said Maj. Erin Maurer, chemical biological radiological and nuclear advisor to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense in Winterbourne-Gunner, England, on exchange from the U.S. Army CBRN School. “It's really necessary for geographically dispersed officers to get re-centered on what they're doing related to U.S. Army requirements and also what they need to do to take care of themselves, because it can be very difficult to keep track of all the requirements that are not the focus in our daily jobs.”
MPEP 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. MPEP Soldiers work with their host nation counterparts at foreign military bases and rarely have the opportunity to interact with other U.S. Soldiers.
United States Army NATO hosted a week of training for U.S. Military Personnel Exchange Program Soldiers Nov. 5-10 at Sembach, Germany.
“I love my job,” she said. “It's the best job I've had since company command.
“The thing about this job is that all the actions I take with my partner nation have tangible effects, effects that I can see the outcome while I'm still there.
“I know that I'm helping partner nations to build their capacity and then just keeping the team effort moving forward for both our armies.
“With the ongoing crisis on the European continent CBRN is on an upswing of importance. It's always been important but now it's at the peak of everyone's consideration, and so building the alliance, making sure that we're moving in the right direction with modernization, with innovation, with interoperability, it's at a critical point for the CBRN community right now in Europe.”
The purpose of the program is to provide a framework for bilateral engagement that strengthens alliances and increases defense cooperation in support of U.S. national security strategy.
“The chance to work together as a multinational force in my brigade is just an immense opportunity to really build our alliance’s capability for warfighting and overall crisis response operations,” said Maj. Chuck Sexton, operations officer with the Italian Julia Alpine Brigade on exchange from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.
Across the European theater allied nation army units incorporate multinational partners in their command structures at the tactical, operational and strategic levels to help increase interoperability and ensure NATO is able to merge the capabilities of various military forces and provide access to national or regional infrastructure, logistics and information.
“As a member of NATO, the United States knows we will not fight alone in future wars,” said Sgt. Maj. Alex Burnett, who works as an instructor for noncommissioned officer education in Ermelo, Netherlands, as part of an exchange between the Royal Netherlands Army and the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. “We need our allies and partners throughout the world, so for the exchange sergeants major and the exchange officers that are over here, being able to build those ties, being able to build those relationships with our host nations and strengthen that transatlantic bond is so important for the future.”
Burnett also said he appreciated the time and effort U.S. Army NATO devoted to ensuring the MPEPs are taken care of.
“As senior NCOs and officers who are dispersed all over Europe it's important to get together like this so that we can knock out the mandatory training that the Army requires,” said Burnett. “Maintaining readiness despite where we are working for our various host nations is still a number one priority for Soldiers in the Army.”
The best part of the conference he said was the opportunity to meet with other MPEP Soldiers.
“We are usually one American deep where we live and work in a European community, and so getting a chance to interact, share experiences, share lessons learned and to learn how to make our foxholes better is really the most important part of this conference,” said Burnett.
Service with U.S. Army NATO provides possibilities to people looking for a sense of purpose and community in their career and life.
“This assignment is tougher than I expected going from two years of company command back down to the platoon level, but being able to learn what I am going to teach my students gives me a great familiarization with how the British army functions and as a whole how we fight together with our British allies in any future conflict,” said Capt. TJ Eddy, military exchange officer between the U.S. Military Academy West Point and the United Kingdom’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
“My family loves living in England, and we've been particularly impressed with the warm welcome we received from the British army between helping us find a house, making sure my family was settled, and all these other bits and bobs, as they would say, to set us up for success,” said Eddy. “Being able to serve over here as an exchange officer is a unique experience that I would encourage my fellow Soldiers to seek out, because you have an outsized influence to improve the relationships between our allies and ensure our armies are able to be successful in any future conflicts.”
U.S. Army NATO has administrative agent support responsibilities for about 70 Military Personnel Exchange Program and Schools of Other Nations Soldiers and their families at 60 locations in 12 countries.
In addition to MPEP and Schools of Other Nations Soldiers, U.S. Army NATO supports about 1,000 Soldiers assigned to NATO billets at 81 locations in 22 countries.