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NEWS | Oct. 24, 2015

New partnership: Working together means more than just badges

By Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe 7th Mission Support Command

A newly-formalized partnership will help a German Bundeswehr clinic and a United States Army Reserve unit learn from each other and work together.

The 361st Civil Affairs Brigade signed a partnership agreement Thursday with the Bundeswehr Major Medical Clinic Cologne-Wahn, located south of the German city of Cologne. The goal is to help provide unique training opportunities for the benefit of Soldiers from both units.

"This is a really unique, strategic partnership for an American Army Reserve unit and an active-duty German Bundeswehr unit to come together,” said Col. Miguel Castellanos, commander of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade.

Castellanos and Col. Ulrich Schwederski-Menke, the head of the clinic, signed the agreement during a day-long event at the clinic.

During the event, members of the 361st traveled to the clinic and observed a first-aid demonstration, and took a guided tour of the facility, said 1st Lt. Luis Villegas, of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade.

The 361st and Major Medical Clinic Cologne-Wahn began training together in 2014, according to Capt. David J. Esra, the commander of the 361st Headquarters, Headquarters Company

“Many of our Soldiers are Reservists and are deeply involved with the German community,” he said. A Bundeswehr Soldier invited the Americans to a shooting event.

After a few Soldiers took part, Esra inquired about the German badges that U.S. Soldiers can wear, including the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge and the Schutzenschner.

“Later, Capt. Mirko Klawa, the clinic’s chief of staff, contacted me about this opportunity,” Esra said. “Not only did our Soldiers want the German badge, but his Soldiers wished to earn the U.S. Army marksmanship badge.”

Since then, the units have held several badge events along with other tactical training events, involving fitness, weapons, communications, field medicine, IEDs and more.

During the training, 32 Bundeswehr service members qualified using American weapons, 52 U.S. Soldiers became GAFPB qualifies and 50 service members from both countries cross trained in life-saving procedures.

“We’re trying to go beyond that,” Villegas said. “By formalizing this partnership, we need to meet two times a year and plan training together.”

After the formal signing ceremony Thursday, Villegas was presented with the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, which he earned earlier this summer. To receive the badge, participants took the German version of the physical fitness test, qualified in a shooting event, completed a road march, finished a swimming test and took part in other events.
“For my unit, I would like to conduct some joint training to work on MEDRETE or MEDCAPS, something that CA guys need to know about,” Esra said. “The BDE has a lack of medical personnel, so I hope to have the German medical expertise added to the training. They also are getting some real world experience handling refugees, another subject CA guys need to be familiar with.”

Esra also would like to invite German medical officers or non-commissioned officers to travel to some of the civil affairs humanitarian and humanitarian project assessment missions.

“This expertise would greatly benefit our capabilities since many of the projects are hospitals and clinics,” Esra said.

“The Germans approached us about formalizing the partnership,” he said. “They seem to enjoy opportunities to get out of the clinic to go to the field and work on Soldier skills. You know, drive trucks and shoot guns. We like this too.”

The bottom line is that working together benefits both organizations, he added.