At Hohenfels, engineers teach their foreign counterparts, then explore Germany
Stars and Stripes August 2, 2006
HOHENFELS, Germany — Training facilities are expanding rapidly here with the help of National Guard, Army Reserve, Estonian and Azerbaijani engineers who have constructed 10 buildings and an airstrip and added two miles of pavement for troops to practice handling roadside bombs over the summer.
The Troop Construction Program at Hohenfels involves about 1,600 National Guard and reserve engineers from Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Maryland as well as several dozen engineers from Azerbaijan and Estonia.
The program’s budget includes $1 million to transport the troops to Germany from the U.S. and $500,000 for materials. But it saves the government $2.5 million to $3 million in labor costs, officials said.
On Tuesday, 83 soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard’s Company A, 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) were at the IED lane laying a cinder block wall around two flat-roofed buildings. The area forms the sort of compound that troops might encounter in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Second Lt. Moranda Flemmer, 27, of Grand Forks, N.D., and a member of Company A, said the unit has been working at the military operations in urban terrain site since its members arrived for their three-week stint in Germany on July 16. But on weekends the soldiers have had the chance to explore Germany, she said.
“Our soldiers have got a lot of opportunities to see sights. Groups of soldiers have been to Munich, Nürnberg, Regensburg, Bamberg, Garmisch and Berchtesgaden,” she said.
For Flemmer, the trip was a chance to get in touch with her German roots.
“My great-grandparents came to the States from Germany 100 years ago. My maiden name is Marquardt, which is German,” she said.
The trip has offered chances to check out German food including sausage, sauerkraut, schnitzel and spätzle, a type of noodle, Flemmer said.
Nearby, some of the 75 soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard’s 120th Engineer Battalion, who arrived at Hohenfels last week, were getting ready to start their own building project at the roadside-bomb lane.
First Lt. Aaron Corbett of Oklahoma City said his unit would work alongside Azerbaijani engineers.
“They are going to see how we operate, what we are building and what our technique is,” he said.
First Lt. Talat Tagiyev, one of eight Azerbaijanis at Hohenfels, said military service is compulsory in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani soldiers are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, he said.
Tagiyev, an Azeri Turk and a Muslim, said Americans are welcome in his country.
“We like guests and we like Americans. We have a lot of beautiful places such as mountainous areas and resorts near the Caspian Sea,” he said.
The country of 8.5 million people is proud of its soccer team and women’s volleyball team, which recently beat the U.S. women’s team, he said.
Capt. Danny Snow, who has been coordinating the instruction program and is a member of the 120th Engineer Battalion, said the Oklahoma National Guard has a partnership with Azerbaijan that has already involved Azerbaijani troops training in the U.S. and will eventually involve Oklahoma troops training in Azerbaijan. Oklahoma is also helping Azerbaijan develop a noncommissioned officer academy, he said.
At Hohenfels, the National Guard troops show the Azerbaijanis block-building techniques and how to operate heavy equipment such as bulldozers, Snow added.
The Oklahoma soldiers have also showed the Azerbaijanis around Germany, taking them on castle tours and to Munich, he said.
“Anywhere we go, they go,” Snow said.