Couple brings troops together for competition

Story and photo by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

KUSEL, Germany ― Raising her German army patrol cap, Heidi Lehmann smiled as she watched her American husband join fellow U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Soldiers on the firing line.

Lehmann, an Oberfeldwebel (equivalent to a U.S. Army sergeant first class), recently spent two days translating for eight garrison Soldiers as they competed for the Schützenschnur, a coveted German army weapons proficiency badge. She and her husband, Sgt. Esse Agnegue, a U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern chaplain’s assistant, brought their units together for the training.

“It’s a nice experience for me to see my husband and the German soldiers are happy to have the Americans here,” Lehmann said.

The couple met online when Agnegue was deployed to Iraq in 2007. He added her as a fan to his hip-hop music site. Later, they realized their mutual love of motorcycles and traveling. They now have a 1-year-old son. 

Each morning, they put on camouflage fatigues of their respective armies and head off to separate bases – Lehmann to her transportation unit in Kusel and Agnegue to Pulaski Barracks in Kaiserslautern. Then they thought of a way to train together – though a shooting competition.

Garrison Soldiers spent one day getting familiar with the German weapons using an indoor trainer. The second day, they joined German troops on an outdoor range, firing a rifle, a pistol and a machine gun.

The Schützenschnur is awarded like the Olympics, in gold, silver and bronze. Of the seven garrison Soldiers who competed, three earned gold and four won bronze. U.S. Soldiers can wear the badge with their dress uniform.

American Soldiers in Baumholder recently held a seminar in English for German noncommissioned officers, said German 1st Lt. Sebastian Schmidt.

That event, plus the marksmanship competition, forces German troops to exercise their language skills, Schmidt said, to prepare for NATO missions in Afghanistan.

“It’s an opportunity for our soldiers to practice English,” Schmidt said. “We have different experiences on missions and in training. We can fill a gap – where we can give our skills to the Americans get some skills from them.”

U.S. Soldiers often work with coalition counterparts, including the German army, while deployed overseas, said Capt. Tom Lukins, commander U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment.

“This event strengthens the bond we have and builds partnerships for future training,” Lukins said.

Originally from Togo, Agnegue said meeting people and traveling is one of the best benefits of serving in the military, especially when it means sharing ideas through events like the Schützenschnur competition.

“The Army gave me so many opportunities to do things, and this is one of those opportunities,” Agnegue said. “We’re working together, building camaraderie and that’s a great thing.”