USA/Dänemark — Face of Defense: Father, Stepson Compare Armies

SCHWEINFURT, Ger­many — A father and his step­son are pur­su­ing mil­i­tary careers – in the U.S. and Dan­ish armies.

Royal Danish Army Officers Academy in Copenhagen, Denmark
Army Mas­ter Sgt. William Groene, right, pos­es with his step­son, Lt. Michel Vester, a Dan­ish cadet at the Roy­al Dan­ish Army Offi­cers Acad­e­my in Copen­hagen, Den­mark.
U.S. Army pho­to by Nathan Van Schaik
Click to enlarge

William Groene is a mas­ter sergeant in the U.S. Army. His step­son, Michel Vester, is a Dan­ish cadet enrolled at the Roy­al Dan­ish Army Offi­cers Acad­e­my at the Fred­eriks­borg Palace in Copen­hagen, Denmark. 

“I met his moth­er back in 1999, and we got mar­ried,” said Groene, the rear detach­ment non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer in charge of 1st Squadron, 91st Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment. “The rest is pret­ty much history.” 

Vester, who works in logis­tics, is a Dan­ish cit­i­zen; dual cit­i­zen­ship is pro­hib­it­ed in Den­mark. He does­n’t see any dif­fer­ences between him­self and his stepfather. 

“We both like work­ing in the army doing man­u­al work and work­ing with sol­diers,” he said. “I don’t think there are any big differences.” 

“He’s a bit more reg­i­ment­ed and focused,” Groene said of his step­son. Vester chuck­led at the sug­ges­tion that his step­fa­ther, who has more than two decades of expe­ri­ence with the U.S. Army, is any less pro­fes­sion­al. “He’s a lot smarter, stronger and bet­ter-look­ing,” Groene said with a smile. 

Each agreed that there was some­thing to be learned from their cross-cul­tur­al counterparts. 

“In the com­bat envi­ron­ment I think there is [some­thing to learn], to a degree,” Groene said about what the Danes have to offer. “I think it’s their lev­el of inter­ac­tion. I think this is a les­son that the Amer­i­can Army is pick­ing up on as well as far as inter­ac­tion down­range in com­bat oper­a­tions, where they tend to inter­act with the [local peo­ple] more.” Vester said he admires the inter­nal inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with­in the U.S. Army. 

“We some­times have a prob­lem with the dif­fer­ent units inter­act­ing,” Vester said, adding that Dan­ish units are iso­lat­ed by region in Den­mark. “They have some maneu­vers togeth­er, but it’s def­i­nite­ly not the same as the Amer­i­can military.” 

Vester reunit­ed with his step­fa­ther when he and 11 oth­er Dan­ish cadets recent­ly vis­it­ed here for a week as part of a train­ing exer­cise for the cadets. Vester, curi­ous about his stepfather’s line of work, ini­ti­at­ed the exchange six months ago. 

“I want­ed to see what the U.S. Army was doing, so I asked him if it was pos­si­ble,” Vester said. 

Lat­er, with assis­tance from Michael Cormi­er of the 172nd Infantry Brigade part­ner­ship office, Groene orches­trat­ed a week of inter­op­er­abil­i­ty train­ing with 12 Dan­ish cadets from the Roy­al Dan­ish Army Offi­cers Academy. 

“The pur­pose was to intro­duce inter­op­er­abil­i­ty train­ing and see how anoth­er army oper­ates,” Cormi­er said. “It was about get­ting to know anoth­er army, for the Dan­ish and the Americans.” 

The cadets were matched up with respec­tive offi­cers from the 172nd Sup­port Bat­tal­ion, 9th Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion, 1st Bat­tal­ion, 77th Field Artillery, and the Schwe­in­furt gar­ri­son judge advo­cate general’s office. The cadets trained among tank units, fired weapons at a range, and com­pet­ed in an inter­na­tion­al soc­cer tournament. 

Lt. Michel Vester and his 11 com­rades returned to Copen­hagen last week. He still has one more year at the acad­e­my. Dan­ish cadets are required to serve an enlist­ed com­mit­ment pri­or to enrolling in the acad­e­my. Fifty to 60 per­cent of Dan­ish cadets have had one or more com­bat mis­sions before enter­ing the Dan­ish acad­e­my, Vester said. 

U.S. Army Gar­ri­son Schwe­in­furt
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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