German air force's new deputy commander views Fort Bliss as his adopted 'hometown'
By DAVID BURGE | The El Paso Times (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 29, 2017
The new deputy commander for the German air force at Fort Bliss views his job as a happy homecoming.
Lt. Col. Henri Neubert, a 45-year-old from Jena, Germany, considers El Paso to be his adopted hometown.
Neubert met his wife, Silvia, in 2002 when he was stationed at Fort Bliss for the first time. His future wife, also a German from Bitburg, was a civilian employee with the German air force at the time.
After leaving in 2005 and going back to Germany, Neubert and his wife have wanted to come back to Fort Bliss and El Paso ever since.
“This is kind of our hometown,” Neubert said. “There is no other place that we have lived together longer. I promised I would do everything possible to come back to the States.”
Neubert’s wife has an adult daughter and grandchildren who live in Houston, making this an especially sweet assignment, Neubert said.
Most recently, Neubert served at NATO headquarters for air operations at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
He returned to Fort Bliss in October 2016 as director of training and took over as deputy commander in July 2017.
Since 2013, the commander of the Air Defense Center has been headquartered at Fort Sill, Okla., and visits Fort Bliss once a month.
So, as deputy commander, Neubert oversees the day-to-day operations of the air-defense school and is the face of the German air force to the El Paso and Fort Bliss communities.
The Germans have had a presence at Fort Bliss for more than 60 years, but have been downsizing in recent years. The German air force deactivated its North American command at Fort Bliss in 2013 and eventually has plans to move the Air Defense Center to Germany.
But that date keeps getting pushed back and the center will remain at Fort Bliss until at least mid-2021, German officials said.
Neubert said nothing will change in the meantime. The Germans will continue to be fully engaged partners on the Fort Bliss team and will continue to train their officers and noncommissioned officers in all aspects of the Patriot air-defense system here at Fort Bliss, he added.
“We won’t stop doing what we are doing right now and we won’t stay at the same level,” Neubert said. “We will continue to improve.”
About 100 German soldiers and civilians are stationed at Fort Bliss and they provide training to 350 to 400 NCOs and officers each year. The Fort Bliss center also teaches German soldiers how to operate a headquarters for a battalion or higher echelon.
The Germans also have what Neubert calls a “joint venture” with Fort Sill. German NCOs and officers begin their training at Fort Sill with American soldiers. German soldiers then finish up their air-defense training at Fort Bliss, he said.
The idea is to continue to build a strong relationship between the two countries and ensure that they can work, communicate and fight together if ever called to do so, in a concept the Americans call interoperability, Neubert said.
The commander of the Germans’ Air Defense Center is Lt. Col. Martin Herter, who had served as the deputy commander for 2½ years before stepping up to the command this summer. At Fort Sill, Herter oversees the Germans’ liaison element to the Fires Center of Excellence.
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