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Expanding and strengthening partnership with Germany 
Feature News Story 
Brig. Gen. Gary Keefe 
Brig. Gen. Gary Keefe, Assistant Adjutant General (Air), Massachusetts National Guard poses for a picture with Lt. Col. Klaus-Heinrich Ehlers, Lt. Cmdr. Sven Kasimir, and 1st Lt. Kai Bindbeutel at the Massachusetts National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters in Milford, Mass., Oct. 18, 2012. Keefe presented the youth officers with commemorative coins to thank them for their efforts to strengthen ties with the Massachusetts National Guard.
By Staff Sgt. James C. Lally, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

MILFORD, Mass – Thirty six German youth information officers from the German Federal Defence Force (Bundeswehr) visited the Massachusetts National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, here during a tour of North American Oct. 18, 2012.

Col. Sterling D. MacLeod, commander, 51st Troop Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard greeted the youth officers and gave them an overview of the Mission of the Massachusetts National Guard.

The youth officers and MacLeod discussed training, operations, programs that care for Soldiers and their families as well as how important it is to foster partnerships.

MacLeod said, “Over the past three years I have been thoroughly impressed with the depth of strategic knowledge and insightful curiosity displayed by these young officers.  The future of the German Armed Forces is in good hands.”

Youth officers have college degrees and several years of experience as military supervisors. In many cases they draw upon personal experience from Bundeswehr operations abroad. In consultation with educational institutions, they promote understanding of the complex field of security policy.

1st Lt. Peter Hartmann, a youth information officer from Cologne, Germany discussed the tour saying, “This is the highlight of our education. The focal point is on getting more insight on the relations between Germany and the United States in regards to security and politics.”

During the tour the youth officers visited Washington D.C. and New York City in their quest to learn more about U.S. national strategy.

“I’m very thankful that I’m here in the United States,” said Hartmann.  “It was great to visit such high level institutions like the Pentagon. It’s great to learn from you guys.”

In Germany the youth officers offer lectures, discussions and seminars on German security policy for interested citizens, associations and clubs, courses in universities as well as for young people in secondary schools, high schools vocational schools.

The youth officers regard dialogue with the public as an essential part of an open and fair exchange of information.

This claim requires them to discuss disadvantages and criticisms of German security policy.

Hartmann said he is hopeful he can take away something from my visit which can be used in his work as a youth information officer.

Last year in Kabul, Afghanistan, members of the Bundeswehr hosted a training event so their counterparts from the 26th “Yankee” Brigade, Massachusetts Army National Guard, could attempt to earn the prestigious German Armed Forces Badge for Weapons Proficiency (German  Schützenschnur).

The coveted Schützenschnur is a badge of honor that enlisted soldiers can wear on their service uniforms. Normally Guardsmen do not get the chance to qualify for the honor. To earn the award soldiers must fire pistols and machine guns under a strict timeline enforced by the Bundeswehr.