Military News

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ohio unit hosts Luftwaffe officers

by Capt. Elizabeth Caraway
445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


7/11/2014 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Two German air force officers continued a 30-year tradition when they came here June 6.

Lt. Col. Stefan Bitterle, Luftwaffe public affairs officer, and Maj. Malte Hinz, Luftwaffe internal security officer, spent two weeks learning how the Air Force Reserve does business and sharing more about their military.

Since the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 1985, more than 300 Luftwaffe officers have participated in the Reserve Foreign Officer Exchange Program with the United States.

All the exchange German officers first traveled to Washington, D.C., for historic tours and briefings from Pentagon officials. From there, 25 Luftwaffe members were sent on to U.S. bases across the country on a mission.

"We are here to learn about the U.S. Air Force Reserve system and use what we've learned to make suggestions to our superiors on ways to improve our own," said Hinz.

Unlike the U.S. system, reservists in Germany have no set number of required days. If they deploy, their deployments last up to six months, are entirely voluntary and can be broken up and served in increments. Pay is rarely competitive, with reservists often losing money during their time in uniform. Still, neither officer has any plans of leaving their service.

"The Luftwaffe gives me an opportunity to give back to my country and preserve it for future generations," said Bitterle.

Hinz said the Luftwaffe has faced multiple challenges during the last few years.

"It used to be that all German males had to participate in the military or in civil service," he said. "The draft was lifted. That policy was done away with in 2011. Since then, we've had a difficult time filling out our ranks."

Germany spent just over 6 percent of taxes on its armed forces last year. The budgetary shortfalls have created challenges, requiring the Luftwaffe to partly outsource air transport to commercial aircraft, an expensive endeavor.

Hinz and Bitterle spoke favorably of the European Air Transport Command, a six-nation organization that stood up in 2010 to share military air transportation needs.

"The EATC is a successful example of optimizing our existing resources," Bitterle said. "By sharing more than 160 aircraft among six countries, we minimize spending, increase our interoperability and minimize our physical, in-country military footprint."

The EATC provides an avenue for member nations to submit requests that are considered based on asset and crew availability. Members recognize that political and legal ramifications may prevent mission support, so countries have veto power.

"It's really a harmonization process," said Hinz. "The EATC has to balance the resources against each country's missions and politics."

The German officers expressed enthusiasm over the A-400M Atlas, the newest aircraft in Germany's inventory. To date, 174 of these aircraft have been sold to seven NATO allies and Malaysia. The four-engine turboprop aircraft has been praised for its multi-role design. Its cargo hold can carry resources too large for a C-130, it can operate on unpaved short fields, and it has tanker and receiver capable.

"With the A-400M, we can overcome the payload and range challenges of other aircraft," said Bitterle.

The nine C-17s of the 445th Airlift Wing also garnered their respect.

"The C-17 is an awesome aircraft," said Bitterle. "When I was deployed to Afghanistan, I flew in it from Bagram Air Base to Spangdahlem Air Base (Germany) and was very impressed."

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