The National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, which connects individual states within the U.S. to allied nations, was established in 1993. Examples of these partnerships include Colorado’s partnership with Slovenia, Utah’s partnership with Nepal, and Kansas’ partnership with Armenia. Germany is not currently a state partner.
In a further attempt to develop connections among U.S. allies, the U.S. and German Reserve Officer Exchange Program was created to exchange officers between nations in order to collaborate on leadership and to create and strengthen alliances with our allied nations for further support in future conflicts.
This present cycle brought Lt. Col. Christian Goessiger to Colorado, attached to the 220th Military Police Company, Colorado Army National Guard. Goessiger is a military police officer within the German Reserves.
“I'm interested in your education to become a reserve military policeman,” Goessiger said. “The comradeship is very important for me. I think that’s the most important thing for the Army side. And on the other side, I'm interested in the people and what they are thinking and how they're living, and, of course, of Denver, I think it's a very beautiful city and Colorado is a very beautiful state.”
During the first day of the exchange, Goessiger said he felt like he had already absorbed many important takeaways such as how to improve their leadership skills and to bring fresh ideas to the German Reserves and updating programs to improve camaraderie within their own units back home.
“What I learned in the last few hours is that we need a system like yours, that we get together two weeks a year to come and to build a unit from our soldiers,” Goessiger said. “I think this is very important. And this is perhaps something I can take with me as the lessons learned. That is very good.”
U.S. Army Capt. Zachary Thompson, commander, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 193rd Military Police Battalion, Colorado Army National Guard coordinated the exchange with Goessiger.
“The Military Reserve exchange program is a partnership that we do through the National Guard Bureau and other partner nations where we send Soldiers overseas to conduct annual training with other (host nation) units,” Thompson said. “And then they send soldiers to do the same thing over here. The three partnerships that we're doing this year are Denmark, Germany and Estonia. Our Estonian soldier actually just got back. And then we're facilitating that soldier coming out and having an AT with HHC here.”
Thompson went on to speak about why this is an important program for the National Guard and for the rest of the nation – including how we can learn new things from our allied nations in terms of leadership and common day-to-day practices that can have a greater impact on the whole unit.
“We do this to strengthen the partnerships we have overseas with the other countries, but also for soldier experiences,” Thompson said. “To make sure that they are able to develop themselves as young leaders and to experience how another nation runs their military and maybe gather some good SOPs (standard operating procedures).”
Preparedness and readiness are pivotal to the operations of the National Guard. Consequently, they are main focal points of leadership. Thompson explained why this exchange program assists the National Guard with readiness as well as how this helps the Soldiers able to take these opportunities.
“It's a very good opportunity for soldiers to experience something new. When it comes to readiness, readiness is three-fold,” Thompson said. “We want to make sure that our retention is great. And this is a good retaining tool. Soldiers exchanged to our allies will receive an experience that they will not have been able to experience outside of the military. It’s a great opportunity. These experiences give them opportunities to grow themselves.”
The National Guard SPP assists us in learning more about our allies, improving leadership capabilities, and creating strong bonds with these allies for future conflicts. The U.S. and German ROEP builds upon this and allows the U.S. to incorporate our German allies and, possibly in the future, make them a permanent part of our SPP. Soldier exchanges like these are what allow us to improve the connections we can make all around the globe.
“I think the system that you come together one weekend a month, that you have more communication and more education in the things you do, is very important. In Germany, we have special, very specialized people. They come as often as they can. And then they are very specialized at things, but I think here you are more into training. And I think you can do more robust action than we are able to,” said Goessiger.