“The Longest Exchange Ever”

  • Published
  • By TSgt Brigette Waltermire
  • 137th Special Operations Wing

This year might mark the “Longest Exchange Ever” of the Military Reserve Exchange Program (MREP).

Two officers from the German Air Force, Lt. Col. Alex Frick, mission support squadron commander of Helicopter Wing 64, Laubheim, and Maj. Alex Schroth, troop driver with Air Command, Berlin, were on exchange to the 137th Special Operations Wing June 6-17, 2022, Oklahoma City.

The program supports reserve force exchanges between NATO nations. Reservists and Guardsmen from the U.S. visit, as well as host, personnel from a foreign country. However, the two-week-long duration of the exchange was not what made it the longest exchange ever: it was that this exchange has been planned since 2020.

“I had never heard of MREP before the notice was sent out for applications,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan Andresen, operations officer with the 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron. “On their visit here, we showed them how we as the Air National Guard functioned, trained and deployed, as well as spoke about how our base operates in comparison to theirs. I’m looking forward to understanding more about that on their end during our visit to Germany.” 

The German officers were given a comprehensive tour of the squadrons and missions supported over the two weeks of the exchange. They helped test MC-12W aircrew gear like night vision goggles and emergency oxygen systems with the 137th Special Operations Support Squadron, simulated calling in an airstrike using the Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System with the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron, and participated in active shooter response training with the 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron.

“It’s very important to keep our militaries’ partnership as strong as possible,” said Frick. “We wanted to get an insight into the U.S. Air National Guard total structure — both in the sense of training and mindset. I personally am proud to be part of the program because I wanted to experience the U.S. military outside of what I have seen in movies, the news and things like magazines. The military community is about people, and my expectations for the experience after meeting people in Oklahoma have totally been met … It has been very exciting working and training here.”

Both Frick and Schroth learned they were coming to Oklahoma only two weeks before their trip.

“It is my first time to visit the U.S., so the friendly culture in Oklahoma was surprising, but the culture (and the food) was also my favorite part,” Schroth said. “I was also excited that the visit would be with a special operations force. There were no major differences when we were discussing the way our two different militaries operate, but I am very proud and overwhelmed by this visit because of the community.”

Exchanges work both ways. Later this year, two Oklahoma Air National Guard officers will visit Germany to complete the "Longest Exchange Ever.”

“I’ve never been to Germany except to transition during deployments and I want to learn how they as a reserve function meet their training requirements and discover if it would be possible for any of our wing to fit into their operations,” Andresen said. “This program is NATO-centric but the ultimate relationship-building goal is from a perspective much like the State Partnership Program. I want to build relationships with our foreign counterparts so that if we are ever in a combined operations setting, we have an understanding of how could more effectively and efficiently work together.”