Swapping skills and patches at the Panzer shooting range

The garrison Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) hosted Soldiers from the German Bundeswehr at the Panzer range on Oct. 26 for a training exercise and marksmanship qualification. Photos by Balmina Sehra, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

By Balmina Sehra
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

Ten soldiers from the German military, the Bundeswehr, earned U.S. Army Marksmanship Qualification Badges at Panzer Kaserne in Böblingen Oct. 18, while strengthening German-American friendship.

After a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the USAG Stuttgart Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) was finally able to host German soldiers at the Panzer shooting range again, allowing them to earn the American marksmanship badges.

Capt. Andrew Horn, who assumed command of the HHC in early 2023, expressed satisfaction in hosting the Bundeswehr personnel and enabling their increased understanding of American weaponry.

“When we have these events, it keeps communication between us open, and therefore the friendship keeps going,” said Horn.

Following a round of practice shots, the invited German soldiers got the green light to demonstrate their shooting skills. Three Bundeswehr soldiers scored a perfect 40, earning the highly coveted ‘expert’ badge and the admiration of their colleagues.

Bundeswehr Soldiers receiving instructions on using their weaponry. Photo by Balmina Sehra, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs.

Events like these provide opportunities for soldiers on both sides to bond, swap stories, and learn about each other’s cultures and military life. They sometimes include the chance to exchange keepsakes such as badges worn on their arms to symbolize their regiment or corps.

Sgt. Erik, one of the Bundeswehr soldiers who scored a perfect 40, was
eager to swap some of his patches for American ones. “It’s always fun to exchange badges. I love hearing the story behind them. I have some that have already caught my eye, and I hope to exchange them for some of mine,” he said.

Hauptfeldwebel (Sgt. 1st Class) Michel, who previously shot with American soldiers, always welcomes participation in these types of events.

“Days like these are always special as it’s like being together with brothers, and it increases the teamwork amongst ourselves,” Michel said.

These events are not only for bonding, but also serve practical purposes. “It’s helpful in case there is a real-world scenario, and we’d have to consider each other’s capabilities,” explained Horn. “We are familiar with it since we’ve already seen and practiced with each other’s equipment before.”

After a long and exhausting day, everyone gathered for a typical American barbecue, closing out with hamburgers and new patches from their counterparts.

Editor’s Note: Per Bundeswehr policy, German soldiers are identified only by rank and first name.

This story is found in the First Quarter 2024 Edition of the Stuttgart Citizen magazine.