Kaiserslautern, Germany –
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- In the middle of 2013, Bundeswehr Air Force Master Sgt. Jochen Werner was given a daunting task. A commercial flight was scheduled to arrive at a German airport carrying U.S. Army troops and equipment and it was his office’s job to make sure the airport knew exactly what was coming.
By that time, Werner had only been an NCO Liaison for 21st Theater Sustainment Command for a few months. He was the first noncommissioned officer in his section, and shortly after he had arrived the lieutenant colonel he worked for retired. But it was still his office’s job to be the bridge between two countries and ensure American Soldiers would arrive safely and discreetly.
Without much guidance or experience with a job like this, Werner did what most of us would have done if we were in his shoes.
“At first, I just googled the airport,” Werner said.
When he was able to track down a phone number, Werner said he was lucky when he found out the manager was from Bavaria--just like him.
“It was directly a good harmony between us,'' Werner said. “We talked about Bavaria first and then he said,’Okay! What do you need? I’ll do everything, no problem.’”
After that, the mission went on without any issues, and Werner said others were surprised to find out how it really happened.
“Sometimes you need a bit of luck, you know?” Werner said. “The right person at the right time and many things can work out.”
For many here at 21st TSC, Werner was just that: the right person at the right time.
But now, after almost eight years and a promotion, Team 21 must bid farewell to Sgt. Maj. Werner.
From coordinating with neighboring countries, to helping Soldiers get a chance at earning the Schützenschnur--Werner has helped keep the command connected to its allies and its host nation.
Perhaps no one will feel Werner’s absence more than his boss, Bundeswehr Army Lt. Col. Thies Neelsen, who spoke very highly of Werner as both a senior NCO and valued colleague.
“Actually, I’m very sad that he is leaving,” Neelsen said. “After all… sergeant major has been my battle buddy for over six years.”
Neelsen stressed how crucial Werner was to both the mission of his office and the command.
“As the [noncommissioned-officer-in-charge]... he has been the backbone of the detachment,” Neelsen said. “He has done everything to enable me to do my job well. With his experience and knowledge it will be very difficult for any successor to replace him…..Team 21 will lose one of its most experienced NCOs, a very valuable point-of-contact, and a good friend as well.”
After leaving 21st TSC, Werner will join his fellow airmen at Ramstein Air Base, working for the Chief of Staff of Allied Air Command Headquarters.
Werner said he looks back very fondly on his time at 21st TSC. He said working from a command like this gave him a unique perspective of the bigger picture.
Working in a position where he had to constantly coordinate with two very different armies, Werner said he was able to see how important the U.S.-German Alliance was--an opportunity that opened a lot of doors for him and made him feel incredibly grateful.
“I probably wouldn’t have this view and wouldn’t hear these stories if I didn’t work in this position here,” Werner said.