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Jacqueline Benningfield (center) received a $6,000 scholarship for her essay extolling the virtues of her local Air Force Club.
Jacqueline Benningfield (center) received a $6,000 scholarship for her essay extolling the virtues of her local Air Force Club. ()

The USO recently honored the best junior enlisted U.S. and German troops in the European theater.

The honorees were wined and dined among dignitaries at the 12th Annual USO Service Salute earlier this month at the Kurhaus in Wiesbaden, Germany.

“The Germans use the event unofficially to send a message,” said Gail Camillo, USO Europe Regional Director. “It transcends current political discussions, if you will.”

The USO asks the senior enlisted adviser for each theater service branch to select outstanding junior enlisted troops for the honor. The criteria is left to the branch.

Part of the idea is to get troops and locals to interact.

Karlheinz Weimar, finance minister of Hessen, was one of the guests. So was Manfred Rommel, former mayor of Stuttgart and son of the World War II German field marshal.

“We also work very closely as one of our goals ... is to integrate servicemembers into their local communities, to understand their host country and gain confidence,” Camillo said.

“If they have a positive experience, they’ll tell people about it.”

This year’s event was combined with a 60th anniversary celebration for the American Forces Network Europe. An earlier celebration had been postponed from spring because of the war in Iraq.

Honorees for the U.S. military are:

• Army Sgt. Stephanie Miller, 293rd Base Support Battalion, Mannheim, Germany;• Marine Cpl. Deryl L. Surratt, U.S. Marine Forces Europe, Stuttgart, Germany;• Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle James Emge, commander, Submarine Group 8, Naples, Italy;• Air Force Airman Steven J. Albert, 469th Air Base Group, Security Forces, Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany;• Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph T. Ruggiero, Tactical Law Enforcement Team South, Opa Locka, Fla. (forward deployed to Bahrain).

Honorees for the German military are:

• Army Stabsunteroffizier Sven Schallhorn, Panzeraufklärungskompanie 70, Eutin, Germany;• Navy Bootsmann Anne Katrin Leitner, 5/Marineoperationsschule, Bremerhaven, Germany;• Air Force Stabsunteroffizier Stefan Kufner, Wartungsstaffel, Lufttransportgeschwader 61, Penzing, Germany;• Joint Medical Service (Zentraler Sanitätsdienst) Oberstabsgefreiter Rene Kolk, Standortsanitätszentrum, Schwanewede, Germany;• Joint Support Service Hauptgefreiter David Klothen, Zentrum fur Verifikationsaufgaben der Bundeswehr, Geilenkirchen, Germany.

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