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Face of Defense: Father, Stepson Compare Armies

By Nathan Van Schaik
U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt

SCHWEINFURT, Germany, June 17, 2010 – A father and his stepson are pursuing military careers – in the U.S. and Danish armies.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Master Sgt. William Groene, right, poses with his stepson, Lt. Michel Vester, a Danish cadet at the Royal Danish Army Officers Academy in Copenhagen, Denmark. U.S. Army photo by Nathan Van Schaik

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

William Groene is a master sergeant in the U.S. Army. His stepson, Michel Vester, is a Danish cadet enrolled at the Royal Danish Army Officers Academy at the Frederiksborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"I met his mother back in 1999, and we got married," said Groene, the rear detachment noncommissioned officer in charge of 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment. "The rest is pretty much history."

Vester, who works in logistics, is a Danish citizen; dual citizenship is prohibited in Denmark. He doesn't see any differences between himself and his stepfather.

"We both like working in the army doing manual work and working with soldiers," he said. "I don't think there are any big differences."

"He's a bit more regimented and focused," Groene said of his stepson. Vester chuckled at the suggestion that his stepfather, who has more than two decades of experience with the U.S. Army, is any less professional. "He's a lot smarter, stronger and better-looking," Groene said with a smile.

Each agreed that there was something to be learned from their cross-cultural counterparts.

"In the combat environment I think there is [something to learn], to a degree," Groene said about what the Danes have to offer. "I think it's their level of interaction. I think this is a lesson that the American Army is picking up on as well as far as interaction downrange in combat operations, where they tend to interact with the [local people] more."

Vester said he admires the internal interoperability within the U.S. Army.

"We sometimes have a problem with the different units interacting," Vester said, adding that Danish units are isolated by region in Denmark. "They have some maneuvers together, but it's definitely not the same as the American military."

Vester reunited with his stepfather when he and 11 other Danish cadets recently visited here for a week as part of a training exercise for the cadets. Vester, curious about his stepfather's line of work, initiated the exchange six months ago.

"I wanted to see what the U.S. Army was doing, so I asked him if it was possible," Vester said.

Later, with assistance from Michael Cormier of the 172nd Infantry Brigade partnership office, Groene orchestrated a week of interoperability training with 12 Danish cadets from the Royal Danish Army Officers Academy.

"The purpose was to introduce interoperability training and see how another army operates," Cormier said. "It was about getting to know another army, for the Danish and the Americans."

The cadets were matched up with respective officers from the 172nd Support Battalion, 9th Engineer Battalion, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, and the Schweinfurt garrison judge advocate general's office. The cadets trained among tank units, fired weapons at a range, and competed in an international soccer tournament.

Lt. Michel Vester and his 11 comrades returned to Copenhagen last week. He still has one more year at the academy. Danish cadets are required to serve an enlisted commitment prior to enrolling in the academy. Fifty to 60 percent of Danish cadets have had one or more combat missions before entering the Danish academy, Vester said.


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