A group of six West German reserve soldiers spent the past two weeks in Utah meeting with their U.S. military counterparts and voicing their feelings about having U.S. troops in Germany.
"We believe in a partnership. We need American troops over there, that's simple to say," said Master Sgt. Reinhard Poes, a member of the West German Air Force reserve.The touring soldiers said they wanted to get the word out to Americans that the majority of West Germans want U.S. troops in Germany to help NATO keep a balance between western conventional forces and Eastern bloc troops that are just across the West German border.
There are two main opinions among West Germans about the presence of the U.S. military in Germany, said Army 2nd Lt. Lutz Brade. "The large majority supports the American presence in Germany and in western Europe," he said, "and a minority, a loud minority, of those who attract the attention of the media and attract the attention of politicians," demonstrate against the United States.
Many of the groups that protest and get media attention are supported financially by East bloc countries, Brade said. Those who support NATO forces don't demonstrate or protest - their opinions, therefore, generally remain unexpressed.
Press accounts also vary depending on how liberal or conservative a particular German television station or newspaper is, Poes said. Local media outlets are the most likely to carry positive press reports of U.S. troops planting trees or doing something else of a positive nature. National and international accounts rarely carry anything positive, he said. "You don't see farmers serving them ice tea, just the demonstrations."
It is obvious inside West Germany that media reports are lopsided when they continually portray West Germans as being against the presence of U.S. military presence and nuclear weapons in their country. "The thought of a withdrawal of (U.S.) troops is scary for us unless there is a reduction on both sides," Brade said. The West Germans have also been watching the progress of the INF treaty. The verification mechanics of the treaty are of particular interest to the West Germans, Poes said.
The West German government would not officially send the six men to the United States, Brade said. So the men - two students, a banker, a supermarket supervisor, and auto parts warehouse manager and an employee of the LDS Church in Frankfurt - paid all of their expenses to get here and have had limited security clearances around military installations.
Another objective of the trip was to get to know the U.S. military organizations the German soldiers would interact with in a wartime scenario.
Brade said it helps them to see Americans in the United States - not just when they are busy with annual joint maneuvers in Germany.
Utah Army National Guard Warrant Officer Terry Haslam said the group accomplished their goal of seeing U.S. military troops at home, and has been warmly received while in Utah.
When the six Germans arrived June 10, they spent two full days with the A and B companies of the National Guard's 142nd Military Linguist Battalion. "They spent a whole day briefing (German-speaking linguists) on German reserve forces," Haslam said. The linguists learned a lot from the men about West and East German military intelligence and operations.
The Germans also visited Howitzer gun batteries at Camp Williams that were participating in the Firex '88 exercise, toured the Air National Guard facility in Salt Lake City and at Hill Air Force Base.
Gov. Norm Bangerter hosted a reception for the men at the governor's mansion. Adjutant Gen. John L. Matthews held a briefing with the men, who told the general they would like to establish an exchange program between German reserve forces and the Utah National Guard, Haslam said.
The men took guided tours of Temple Square, Park City, Deer Creek Reservoir, Brigham Young University and the BP Minerals open pit copper mine. Afterward they toured Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, Lake Powell and other scenic parts of southern Utah on their own.