My GECU

Operation Desert Rumble: German Air Force trains in the field

Members of the German Air Force and a supervising instructor go through the procedures to ready the MIM-104 Patriot missile launching system during a field exercise here April 6. Photos by Abigail Meyer Fort Bliss Bugle Editor.

Members of the German Air Force and a supervising instructor go through the procedures to ready the MIM-104 Patriot missile launching system during a field exercise here April 6. Photos by Abigail Meyer
Fort Bliss Bugle Editor.

By Abigail Meyer, Fort Bliss Bugle Editor:

(El Paso, Texas, April. 13, 2017) The trucks roll in, and Airmen jump out and get to work. Everyone knows their job. Officers and noncommissioned officers in training at the German Air Force Air Defense Center here had a culminating training exercise here during the week of April 4 through 7.

First Lt. Matthias Forkert, right, and Master Sgt. Matthias Dudda, left, go through the procedures to ready the MIM-104 Patriot missile launcher during a field exercise here April 6.

First Lt. Matthias Forkert, right, and Master Sgt. Matthias Dudda, left, go through the procedures to ready the MIM-104 Patriot missile launcher during a field exercise here April 6.

“Here, everything comes together. The officers work together with the noncommissioned officers for this exercise. We timed it so their courses would end at the same time,” said Lt. Col. Henri Neubert, director of training for the GAFADC. “The officer is doing his job and the NCO is doing his job so now they have to work together as a team.”

A member of the German Air Force carries equipment during the emplacement of the fire unit during a field exercise here April 6.

A member of the German Air Force carries equipment during the emplacement of the fire unit during a field exercise here April 6.

In the U.S. military, air defense artillery falls under the Army, whereas in Germany, it falls under the Air Force. Air defense artillery uses long range surface-to-air missiles to protect from aerial enemy or missile attack.

“We operate in the third dimension, so it makes sense for us to stay in the Air Force, to know what’s going on in the sky – shoot the bad guys down, let the good guys fly,” Neubert said.

Airmen receive coordinates, drive the fire unit convoy, including a MIM-104 Patriot missile launcher, out into the desert and set up for missions. Each team of an officer and NCO had the chance to be the fire control officer, essentially directing the mission, while the others ready the system. It’s bottom-up training so they know how the entire system works, although they typically wouldn’t do the set up in real-world circumstances.

Members of the German Air Force and a supervising instructor go through the procedures to ready the MIM-104 Patriot missile launcher during a field exercise here April 6.

Members of the German Air Force and a supervising instructor go through the procedures to ready the MIM-104 Patriot missile launcher during a field exercise here April 6.

“Here, they learn how to get the launching station ready, how long it takes. This is also where the officer gets hands on equipment at the launching station – they’ll never have that again,” Neubert said.

First Lt. Matthias Forkert worked with Master Sgt. Matthias Dudda throughout the week. Like most of the officers, Forkert started his air defense artillery training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before beginning the course here after Christmas.

“When you’re over here, especially with eight hours of time difference, you can completely concentrate on training,” Forkert said. “Also the experience of being in the USA is great.”

German Airmen work to ready the Patriot launching system during a field exercise here April 6.

German Airmen work to ready the Patriot launching system during a field exercise here April 6.

In the ADA career field, there’s a flurry of activity to set up and be ready for any mission; then there’s a lot of time waiting to receive a mission. It’s an important asset to the international defense community. Along with the U.S., Germany supported the NATO air defense mission in Turkey a few years ago.

“It’s very important because in Europe, Germany is one of the last nations to have air defense with the Patriot, at least,” Forkert said. “We are one of the last ones to have it in Europe, so if NATO calls for air defense, it’s going to be us.”

An added benefit of the course being offered here is the chance for U.S. Soldiers and the German Airmen to work together.

“An important factor is also that we get an idea of what it means to work together with an ally. Being an alliance is what we have to do. There’s no nation who can do business alone,” Neubert said. “Learning about the culture means working together easier. Exchange at the lowest level, at the earliest stage is always good.”

Neubert said the environment at Fort Bliss is perfect for year-round training. It’s also a great opportunity for German Airmen to get the chance to experience life in the U.S., something most other German military members don’t get.

“The main important thing is that we are happy to be here. Every student, every instructor wants to be here,” Neubert said.

Germans have been training here since 1960. The Air Defense Center offers several different courses, some as short as two weeks or as long as 13 months. At some point, the course will move to Germany. For now, it’s slated to be here through 2020. The current class will graduate in May.

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