Sgt. 1st Class John Wessely and Sgt. 1st Class Mark Korte were promoted Jan. 21, 2017 — and not by coincidence.
The two Soldiers, both civil affairs noncommissioned officers with Company D, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, 7th Mission Support Command, knew each other many years ago and were reunited more recently.
Korte and Wessely originally met at basic training as part of an Army pilot program in the mid-1980s called the COHORT (Cohesion Operational Readiness and Training) Soldier replacement system program during their initial Army enlistment.
The fledgling COHORT program’s intent was to keep Soldiers together during their entire Army career from basic training to retirement (when applicable), to promote unit cohesion, military readiness and family stability, according to information from Korte.
Wessely and Korte entered one station unit training, which is back-to-back basic and advanced individual training completed in one location, at Fort Knox, Ky., in August of 1986. They graduated together as Cavalry Scouts that October.
After they completed their training together, Wessely and Korte were stationed in Bindlach, Germany, near Bayreuth, with the 1st Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in late 1986. Korte was in Troop A and Wessely was assigned to Troop B.
All of the original 40 COHORT “Package Platoon” Soldiers except three were sent to 1/2 ACR.
Then life happened.
Korte left the Army after his initial term in service, while Wessely continued to serve, but not on active-duty.
Fast forward to 2009.
“By chance, I saw John at a local video store in Bayreuth,” Korte said.
Both were shocked by their first encounter after 20 years.
“When I saw Mark at the video store on that day, I couldn’t believe that he was still here in Bayreuth,” Wessely said.
Korte was also floored by the serendipity.
“We were both stunned that although we had both ETS’d (were discharged from the Regular Army) in 1989, we both had no idea the other stayed in Bayreuth.
“We got to talking, and I told him about the reserves, and next thing you know, he is in,” Wessely added.
Wessley told Korte he had joined the Army Reserve.
“I had no idea that there was such a thing,” Korte said. “Nevertheless, I joined just a week later.”
Both were promoted to Sergeant in 2011, on the same day, then to Staff Sergeant on the same day in 2013 and finally to Sergeant First Class on Jan. 21.
Korte and Wessely also deployed together to Afghanistan in 2012-2013 with the 457th CA Bn.’s Delta Company.
“When I talk to old army buddies from back in the day, they find it really amazing that Mark and I are still together in the same company and getting promoted at the same time,” Wessely said.
This is fulfilling the intent of the “COHORT Package Platoon,” Korte said.
“This is a very special day for me,” Korte said, Jan. 21, after being promoted. “The fact that SFC (Sergeant First Class) Wessely and myself went through basic training together over 30 years ago, (and) after both having (a) 20-year break in service to be promoted through the ranks at the same time, to now being senior NCOs together is beyond unreal, a real honor.”
There might be one more day that Korte and Wessely can attend the same ceremony together.
“Who knows, maybe we can work something out so that we can retire on the same day,” Wessely said.