HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Approximately 65 U.S. and European senior military leaders from six countries and members of leading military think tanks met here Oct. 27 to share their viewpoints and experience in discussions of European security cooperation and partnership.

The event, the 31st U.S. Army Europe Legion of Merit conference, traditionally brings together senior active and retired military members who have been awarded the U.S. Army Legion of Merit medal. This year the conference, hosted by USAREUR commander Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, has been expanded to include other military experts as well.

"You have a lot of high-level -- both active and retired -- allied general officers and colonels who are opinion shapers in their military," said Hertling. "This is a very good way to not only tell them what we're doing, but get some good ideas from them on how we shape the future."

The purpose of the annual conference is to sustain and strengthen U.S. and partner nation relationships. Participants were briefed on and discussed topics such as building partner capacity, consequence management in Europe, theater logistical support and USAREUR transformation.

"For sure I think some of this information will be very useful for our decision-makers, when we're back home, to have one additional touch or one additional source of information to put into the evaluation process, see how we can do it better together for the better world that we are building together," said Croatian Army Col. Damir Terzic.

Bundeswehr Gen. (Ret.) Leopold Chalupa, who has attended all 31 Legion of Merit Conferences, said the events have always offered a good venue for renewing old partnerships and building new ones.

"From the beginning it's been important, because old comrades in arms are getting together to discuss some of their successes, their experiences, the new problems which have come up," said Chalupa. "It is not only a happy reunion, but also a useful discussion about the military situation at the time."