A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officer was given the opportunity to foster a bilateral relationship through the Exchange Officer Program which ends today.
German Air Force Maj. Andreas Jeschek, attached to the 354th Fighter Squadron as an A-10 Thunderbolt pilot, has been part of the program since 2011 and his tour here ends today.
An exchange officer is a commissioned officer in a country’s armed forces who is temporarily attached to a unit of the armed forces of another country. The exchange officer will usually perform all duties as if he or she were actually in the armed forces to which they are attached.
“I flew Tornados back in Germany,” Jeschek said. “In 2009 I was asked if I wanted to join the program by my former squadron commander, it is a unique opportunity between the German and U.S. Air Force, in the fighter community, there are only two pilots taking part in the program.”
Jeschek went through the A-10 training course with the 357th Fighter Squadron here at D-M for about five months prior to being attached to the operational 354th FS.
“I joined the squadron in November of 2011,” Jeschek said. “Ever since then I have been training with them, flying with them, deploying with them, it has been a real opportunity.”
He is also the first German pilot to consistently employ in close air support with a U.S. unit.
“As a German Officer, I am bound to German regulations, so employing with the 354th FS was difficult, there was a lot of paperwork and documents that needed to be signed by the Secretary of Defense prior to deploying to Afghanistan with the Bulldogs,” Jeschek said. “The German Parliament ultimately has the final say.”
During Jeschek’s deployment, he completed 400 flying hours and participated in close to 100 combat missions with the 354th FS.
“My greatest experience was getting to fly and lead in combat missions with the Bulldogs,” said the exchange pilot.
Another challenge Jeschek faced was bringing his family to a foreign land and then leaving them shortly after they arrived for a deployment.
“They had great support from the squadron while I was deployed but it was just hard, we didn’t realize it would happen so quickly,” the German native said. “So they were here without me for the seven months while I was deployed, not only that, but prior to the deployment you have less personal time because of all the preparation.”
Jeschek’s next career step is slated to be the German Training Squadron commander at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
“I will have to retrain back to the Tornado and become an instructor again, then I become the commander in October,” Jeschek said. “I am excited to take what I learned here and hopefully instill it in the new pilots.”
Maj. Jeschek finished his tour with the Bulldogs with one last flight in the A-10 Thunderbolt, after which he was awarded the U.S. Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.