Oregon and Germany Partake in Officer Exchange Program

  • Published
  • By Mr. Steven Conklin
  • 142nd Wing

The Military Reserve Exchange Program (MREP), has been strengthening international relationships as a program for NATO servicemembers to build cultural understanding and regional expertise. For German reserve officers, it’s a rare opportunity to engage with the United States armed forces as only 14 are selected annually to travel here for the program.

This year, Captain Philipp Lukas of the German Reserve Air Force was one of 14 selected for exchange with the US, specifically to the Portland Air National Guard Base in Portland, Oregon to shadow the 142nd Wing.

“It is an honor and a really great pleasure to be here, for 2 weeks part of a flying wing from the national guard”, said Lucas.

The primary purpose of MREP is to provide National Guard and Reserve participants training associated with their mobilization duties while enhancing their ability to work and communicate with military members of the host nation.

Lukas, a Human Resource Officer with the German military, took specific note on the human element of the 142nd Wing.

“I’m very impressed by the very strong team spirit and the professionalism with which you do your processes and procedures,” said Lucas. “We have a lot of the same procedures, but I'm very impressed by the feeling of unity.”

The MREP only provides a short time for officers to absorb all they can to bring back to their home units, but Lukas said there were certain themes that stood out to him. “Only two weeks, but the perspective and the feeling. A better understanding about how you think about the wing and the tasks and the future.”

In exchange for Captain Lukas, the 142nd Wing sent Captain Dewayne Pittman of the 142nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) to Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31, Nörvenich Air Base, Germany. Pittman, the flight commander for the 142nd AMXS Flightline, said his trip overseas gained him multiple new experiences.

“I had the privilege of working alongside our allies, exchanging knowledge, and gaining insights into their operations,” said Pittman. “They allowed me to fly the Eurofighter in their simulator and take part in their briefs. They went above and beyond to share their maintenance practices as well as give me guided tours of their munitions facilities.”

For these two officers, the program was also a time for them to bond. “Hosting Capt Lukas was awesome! My goal was to show him the base but it grew to much more,” said Pittman. “I showed him the Portland culture and took him to all of the tourist traps. Through those experiences we were able to share commonalities and difficulties in both our military and civilian careers. We got some great lessons learned and we still communicate to this day.”

While the shared knowledge of trade tactics can bring back diversity of thought to their perspective services, it is clear that the bonds built during this exchange was the pinnacle of the exchange for both officers.

“I think the coolest thing was all of the people I met,” stated Lukas. “They gave me a really good welcome and I felt integrated. After two weeks, I go through the base and people say, ‘hi Lukas, nice that you are here, or hi Philipp.’ That’s my highlight.”

A highlight that Pittman also shared. “One of the most rewarding aspects of my time spent in Germany was the relationships I formed with the German military and the local community,” said Pittman “Collaborating on projects and celebrating social events created strong bonds and fostered a sense of unity despite our cultural differences.”