Archive for Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reception honors German general

September 15, 2005

A retired German general and his American host underscored the importance of strong relationships among members of the international military community during a reception last week in Lansing.

Retired Gen. Peter Carstens was the guest of honor at a reception hosted Friday at Leavenworth Country Club by Robert Ulin, a Lansing City Council member and faculty member at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.

Carstens told the audience of 55 U.S. and foreign officers and their spouses how the world was a different place from "the bad old days of the good old Cold War," when European and American military officers often shared the same resume in NATO assignments.

"This doesn't happen anymore," said Carstens, who retired in 1998 as chief of staff of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), one of NATO's two main military commands. "The U.S. Army is so widespread over the whole world. The role of the military has completely changed - that's true for all armies. So we have to find a reasonable substitute for this link that is not naturally developing anymore as it used to."

Ulin, who served more than 20 years ago at SHAPE, concurred with the general's assessment.

"With the demise of the Cold War, we're in a much more volatile world than we ever were, and SHAPE is more important and NATO is more important today than it ever has been in history," Ulin said.

Carstens is vacationing in the United States and was in the area to visit his son, Nikolaus, a lieutenant colonel in the German army and a new student at the Command and General Staff College. By coincidence, Ulin is the sponsor at the college of Nikolaus Carstens and his wife, Motti.

At Friday's reception, Ulin recalled a conversation in which the young lieutenant colonel said his father was Gen. Peter Carstens.

"I said, 'Gosh, I've heard that name someplace,'" Ulin recalled, "but at my age I can't even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. Then it suddenly dawned on me as a life member of the SHAPE Officers Association that General Carstens was the president of the SHAPE Officers Association."

Ulin and the elder Carstens put in a plug for the new generation of soldiers to join the SHAPE Officers Association. The group draws its members from officers and civilian employees who have worked in the Brussels headquarters and are citizens of one of the 26 NATO member countries or 20 NATO Partners in Peace countries.

The association has three main goals: To foster friendships among officers currently serving at SHAPE and those who have served at SHAPE; to keep members informed about SHAPE and the military situation in NATO; and to enable members to serve NATO even after military retirement.

Carstens noted the 1,700-member group would like to attract more members from the underrepresented "new NATO nations."

Said Ulin as he encouraged officers to pick up an application for membership in the association, "Unfortunately, as the general indicated, this is an old boys' club. I'm 20 years removed from SHAPE. But it's becoming a very large and a very vibrant community."

Just four of the officers attending Friday's reception are currently eligible to become members of the association, but as Ulin said, "A number of the students here maybe have not served for NATO before, but surely you will serve there in the future."

Countries represented at the reception were the United States, Germany, Canada, France, Turkey, Czech Republic, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Netherlands.

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