109th Airlift Wing Hosts German Air Force Officer

  • Published
  • By Jaclyn Lyons,
  • 109th Air Wing/Public affairs

SCOTIA, N.Y. – The New York National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing hosted a German Air Force officer in June as part of the Military Reserve Exchange Program.

MREP enables Guard and Reserve Airmen and Soldiers, both officers and enlisted, to train with select allied nations. It helps participants increase their knowledge of foreign reserve forces and demonstrates continued support of NATO members and their militaries.

Oberstleutnant Heiko Radermacher spent two weeks touring and learning about the various missions, skill sets and operating styles of New York Air National Guard units.

Radermacher is the equivalent of an Air Force lieutenant colonel. He is the deputy maintenance commander from 31st Tactical Wing, a unit in Western Germany near Cologne that flies the Eurofighter.

Radermacher’s first choice to visit was a fighter unit, similar to the one he works at in Germany. He wasn’t sure what to expect when he matched with an Air National Guard mobility unit.

“I had no clue before what the Air National Guard did. I thought you did the drill once a month and an exercise once a year and that was it. I wasn’t aware of the steady work doing all of the operations, how many people are full-time working every day,” Radermacher said.

The program matched Radermacher with Capt. Joshua Bowers, wing executive staff officer for the 109th Airlift Wing. Bowers was also a prior enlisted crew chief and began his career as an officer in maintenance.

The program matches service members, but once personnel are at the unit it is up to the hosting member to set up tours, training and schedules.

“The objective of the program is to see how the other side does it and then see what you can take back with you, positives and negatives,” Bowers said. “When you’re at a unit for a long time, you get in the habit of, ‘this is the way it’s done.’ It’s not until you go see something else that you learn there is more than one way to do it. Your aperture opens, and you can recognize there is a whole lot more going on than only what you see.”

In addition to his time at the 109th, Radermacher toured the 174th Attack Wing, the 105th Airlift Wing and the Department of Military and Naval Affairs.

During the visit, the officers realized they had much more in common than they thought.

“We have different organizational structures, but we are doing the same stuff and we do it nearly the same way. We traveled to different maintenance shops, propulsions, avionics, fuels, talking in detail — we are nearly the same,” Radermacher said.

The foreign MREP participants spent three days touring Washington, D.C., Annapolis, Maryland, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to learn more about America’s history and culture before reporting to their assigned units.

“This is such a great program — to see the Capitol, experience the culture and important places to the history of the United States, be immersed in the English language,” Radermacher said. ”I don’t speak English on a daily basis. I can listen and read it OK, but it was nice to practice speaking it.”

As part of the program, Bowers will travel to Germany in the fall to visit Radremacher’s unit and see how they operate.

“I’ve always been interested in international relations. The point of the program is to start relationship-building,” Bowers said. “If down the road we are in Germany and need something, we have some connections — you can’t do it all — but you have to know who can do what. The relationship-building is critical on the local level, national level and international level.”