Airman develops German NCOs

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Davis
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A little over a year ago, Master Sgt. Jennifer Blackmarr applied for a new job that would take her completely out of the comfort zone she's been in for the past 14 years as a security forces professional and basic military training instructor.

"One day I was at Lackland Air Force Base, trying to prepare for my next job," said Sergeant Blackmarr. "I just randomly looked at the positions and I saw the ad."

The ad was for a noncommissioned officer academy instructor position, although she would not be instructing U.S. Air Force NCOs. She would be part of an exchange program that would send her to the "Unteroffizierschule der Luftwaffe," Noncommissioned Officer School of the German Air Force, located just outside of Hamburg, Germany.

Sergeant Blackmarr applied for the job knowing that, if accepted, it would mean learning a new skill set, a new language and a four year commitment in a new environment. After submitting her package, Sergeant Blackmarr was selected as the best candidate for the job, and began her transition.

The first step was attending the Defense Language Institute to learn German.

After months of training, Sergeant Blackmarr had a basic understanding of the German language, and was on her way to conquer the daunting task of immersing into another country and culture. At the same time she was responsible for teaching important leadership skills to her students.

"They welcomed me from the start," she explained. "They knew my language ability was not as fluent as it would need to be to teach, so they helped me out. They included me in all their activities on and off duty."

Though she is still not completely fluent in the German language, Sergeant Blackmarr finds ways to communicate her lessons.

"After six months, it is still sometimes difficult to communicate the exact point you want to make, and when you are teaching you have to be able to reach (students on) all levels," she said. "One of the (German) instructors I work with speaks really good English. So, if I am ever really in a jam, I just ask him what the word is."

In spite of the communication barriers at times, Sergeant Blackmarr's students are learning and her co-instructors are appreciative of the diversity she brings.

"It is a benefit for us, and it is a very good experience for us because we get to know different cultures and how the United States Air Force handles different things," said German NCOA instructor, Senior Master Sgt. Rolf Gemuenden. "We can learn from each other. We can share some information and it will make it easier when we meet together as coalition forces on the battlefield to know each other better."

Sergeant Blackmarr also understands the bigger picture and the importance of the relationship she is building with her counterparts and students.

"I think the most important thing is the partnership, and when you are more culturally aware, it builds friendships and camaraderie and everything we need to have a good joint coalition force."

Sergeant Blackmarr will complete her tour at the Unteroffizierschule der Luftwaffe in three and a half years with hopes that what she is doing will leave a lasting impact.

"Everywhere I go I want to leave my thumbprint. One of my goals is to leave a little bit of myself and America and my training behind as a little bit of a legacy."