By Vince Little, The BayonetJuly 2, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - After putting an Armor liaison in place here last month, the German army has now swapped out its top Infantry representative at Fort Benning.
Lt. Col. Frank Schuster recently replaced Lt. Col. Walter Schleef as head of the two-member branch, which supports the Maneuver Center of Excellence by strengthening ties between U.S. and German Soldiers through exchanges, training opportunities and special events. The two officers are swapping jobs.
Schleef, who spent more than four years at Fort Benning, left for Berlin on June 26 to become an adviser with the German Defense Department. It's the same position Schuster occupied the past 18 months.
"I'm going on with the work Lieutenant Colonel Schleef has done with the Maneuver Center and Infantry School," Schuster said. "There are a lot of things for me to learn - and some things we can share and learn from each other. The friendship between the U.S. Army and German army is very important. And it will work.
"We are off to a great start already. We got a warm welcome from everybody. That's a good feeling."
Schuster, who joined the German army in 1982, said his immediate focus will be reaching out to various leaders and Soldiers on post. He wants to be a visible presence around Fort Benning.
Sharing lessons learned from the battlefield in Afghanistan, where the U.S. and Germany are part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force mission, is critical to the success of both armies, he said.
"I'm not sitting around waiting. I will go out and meet everyone," he said. "I want to learn from the U.S. Army, and maybe give them some of my personal experience in how we do tactics."
Schuster and his wife, Regina, arrived June 21, but they're not total strangers to Fort Benning or Columbus. He attended the Infantry Warfighting Conference last September, and the couple visited in March on a house-hunting expedition.
"The community is great. Everybody says 'hello' to you," he said. "We have met a lot of people. Columbus is a nice city, but we haven't seen everything. We need more time to explore."
Speaking in German through her husband, Regina was appreciative of the reception she's gotten.
"I am very impressed with Fort Benning. Even at the gate, everyone is so friendly," she said. "There are a lot of new things to see. I'm excited to be here ... We are both very happy to be here and look forward to meeting many people. My husband and I are a team."
The German army now has four Soldiers stationed at Fort Benning. LTC Dirk Schubert and SGM Frank Zindel arrived in early June from Fort Knox, Ky., and will serve as the MCoE's only Armor foreign liaison office.
Schuster said the two staffs could work together on traditional post activities such as German Unity Day, the German-American Oktoberfest at Uchee Creek and German-Italian Memorial Day. They'll link up for various socials throughout the year.
The Infantry officer, an avid sports fan, said he plans to compete in the 2011 Reverse Sprint Triathlon. Years ago, Schuster played cornerback during a season of American football in Germany, so he wants to see a Falcons game in Atlanta.
The Schusters also are eager to travel around the United States on vacation, he said.
As for the house hunting' The couple opted for Fort Benning.
"We want to have a good relationship with the community, the Soldiers and families," Schuster said. "That's why we chose to live on post."