News | Jan. 7, 2020

DLA Aviation joins in exchange program with Europe

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Seeds planted over a year ago are bearing fruit and strengthening partnerships between Defense Logistics Agency Aviation and Germany with the arrival of Raphael Kerwien in late August under the German Engineering and Scientist Exchange Program with the Department of Defense.

Chris Davis, Director, Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate, said the initial meeting on Defense Supply Center, Richmond, Virginia, back in January 2018 was the first in-person exchange of knowledge with Defense Logistics Agency Aviation acquisition professionals on performance-based logistics and long-term contracting initiatives which created relationships with the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support, the Bundeswehr University Munich and Dr. Alexander Schmidt.

The Bundeswehr are the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities.  Schmidt is the liaison officer for Federal Republic of Germany Liaison Office for Defense Materiel USA and Canada whose office is in Reston, Virginia.  He coordinated with Davis to make the exchange a reality.

“There were lots of conversations back and forth to build the relationship between us and arrange for Mr. Kerwien to come to work with us this past August,” Davis said.  “He will be with us until August 2020 and after he returns, we hope to continue in the exchange program as German candidates are identified and potentially send one of our acquisition professionals over to Germany.” 

Davis said that over his career he has learned that the key to building any successful program is keeping relationships and communication strong.

“These relationships are the foundation that allows us to better support all of our customers through innovative contractual agreements with our supplier base,” said Davis. “Mr. Kerwien is one of the first candidates to help develop that type of relationship between DLA Aviation and the German Bundeswehr.  He is eager to participate, learn, express ideas and has already made himself a valuable asset to the team; we are truly lucky to have him and his wife here with us for this first rotation!”

Kerwien shared why he wanted to participate in the program Office and the benefits he hopes to gain personally and professionally.

“This is my first assignment with the exchange program,” said Kerwien, “I could have picked a European country such as England or France, but they were close to Germany and I don’t speak French.”

He said the United States is the most important NATO partner of the Bundeswehr and cooperation between our two countries plays a key role in international security. “I think it is especially important to learn more about each other’s personal and professional lives, to share opinions and experiences, to develop a better mutual understanding,” he said.

Kerwien moved to the Richmond area with his wife, who is a pre-school teacher and who he said also appreciates the opportunity to broaden her horizon and contribute to American society while she is here.    

Kerwien, who has never been to the U.S., believes the program should not only promote a professional exchange, but also a cultural exchange between the two countries. 

He said he has already made acquaintance with a number of people and was surprised that so many Americans have connections with Germany either through their military service or because they have relatives in Germany.

“The connections make it easier to get to know each other and integrate into the local society,” he said.  “My wife and I are also using our time to discover the country and its history. My work colleagues have been providing useful tips and suggestions.”

He said the U.S. is the third-largest country in the world which they are keen to explore. “I’ve always dreamed of riding a Harley Davidson on Route 66, visiting the Kennedy Space Center and seeing a rocket launch into space,” he said. 

Kerwien and his wife have already toured many places in Virginia, joined in the Richmond Folk festival and local Oktoberfest and participated in a half marathon in Virginia Beach. Before the year is out, they hope to visit New York, Philadelphia, and Florida. 

He jokes the one thing they are having problems with is deciding which sports teams to support during their year here.

In his country, Kerwien works in the central accounting supervision branch of the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Infrastructure, Environmental Protection and Services supporting the defense ministry in monitoring compliance with accounting requirements. 

“So far, I have little experience in the areas of logistics, supply chain management and contract design,” he said. “The tasks of DLA are different from those of the finances and controlling directorate when I currently work in Germany; however, the program will allow me to quality for advanced-level positions at the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support, the Federal Ministry of Defense or even with a NATO organization to put the experience I gain here to good use back in my country.

He said it’s a valuable experience to see the work processes, methods and organization of a U.S. federal agency.