By Spc. Aislinn M. Amig, 18th Eng. Bde. Public AffairsJanuary 13, 2011
SPEYER, Germany -- From ruck marches to shooting competitions, physical fitness tests to sporting events, the 18th Engineer Brigade and the German 464th Special Engineer Battalion have been busy developing an enduring partnership here since August.
The German 464th Special Engineer Battalion began the partnership experience by hosting a German Sports Badge, or Deutches Sportabzeichen, qualification event Aug 12. Soldiers from both nations participated in a shot put, stone put, long jump, high jump and multiple distance runs.
"It gives us an opportunity to practice the English language," said German army 1st Lt. Thomas Loewer, of 464th Special Eng. Bn. "We learn to work with our international partners and build strong relationships."
In order to fully qualify for the Sportabzeichen, Soldiers must also finish a 200-meter timed swimming event, which could not be completed that day because of the pool location.
Other events were coordinated between the two engineer units so that Soldiers could also earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, or Leistungsabzeichen. This badge requires Soldiers to have already earned the Sportabzeichen and also complete a commander's evaluation report, first aid course, pistol marksmanship and a foot march.
1st Lt. Jeff Johnson, the 18th Eng. Bde. medical operations officer, participated in many of the partnership events with the 464th Special Eng. Bn., eventually earning the bronze Schutzenschnur for his qualification with the German weaponry.
Johnson served as an American liaison for three Bundeswehr units prior to his arrival at the 18th Eng. Bde., earning the gold Schutzenschnur as well as the Leistungsabzeichen, and said that "doing events like these and talking to our partners is the best way to get comfortable working with them."
Johnson said partnership events are important because "it helps Soldiers get out into the community that we are living in, and interact with soldiers from NATO nations we'll be working with (while deployed)."
The "Swords Up" brigade and the 464th Special Eng. Bn. will continue to strengthen their bond by participating in one another's ceremonies and socials, such as the New Year Reception, recently hosted by the commander of the 18th Eng. Bde., Col. Paul Paolozzi.