Was ist What?
By Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn L. Rich, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 01, 2011
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Moving can be a daunting experience. But when people PCS to a country that is completely different in language and in culture, it can be downright intimidating.
That is why Hagen Volke the cultural adaptation liaison officer with the Airman & Family Readiness Center, has taken it upon himself to develop programs that make the transition easier for military members and their families.
There are many programs available at the A&FRC to assist in the transition to a new country. These programs are designed to introduce the language and culture slowly, and in a friendly environment that it feels less like jumping in the deep end of a cold pool.
There is the Ramstein Spouses' Orientation. It is held every Monday from 08:30 a.m to 2:00 p.m. and inundates the student with a multitude of helpful information.
"It was so much great information, I think that I am going to go back, it was amazing," said Stacey Miller, wife of Tech. Sgt. Chris Miller, cyber security technician from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Headquarters.
Another class offered through is Introduction to the German language. It is a 4-week class for basic knowledge, useful for eating out, shopping, socializing and emergency situations. Classes are held every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Students are encouraged to sign up early for classes as the seats go quickly.
Another experience offered is called "What is What?". This unique program is a one day class that takes its participants by the hand through a local grocery store and familiarizes them with the products and services that they will come in contact with while shopping on the local economy. The first of these classes was held May 26.
The local store chosen to host this first time class was Globus in Kaiserslautern. A group of students were provided directions from Ramstein Air Base to Globus, which is about a 10 minute drive. Students were required to provide their own transportation to and from the shopping excursion.
This 4-hour-long experience had the store manager and members of staff to conduct the tour. Mr. Volke served as liaison and interpreter for the tour. The explanation and interaction were in-depth and went through every department of the store.
"The manager and staff were actually walking around the store with us and showing us different things. I have special diet needs, so knowing what is in my food is very important," said Mrs. Miller. "It is making the idea of shopping on the economy a lot less intimidating."
Mr. Volke is responsible for organizing these three programs that have become a hit with those who have participated.
"This tour has been extremely helpful, because normally just walking in would be intimidating, you don't really know what things are, or if you are getting a good deal," said Melanie Robinson, wife of Airman 1st Class Clark Robinson, 693rd Intelligence Support Squadron. "This is really helpful to hear all that they do."
This is the Robinson's first PCS and first non-training base in the Air Force. They have taken advantage of all of the classes that Mr. Volke has offered to date.
"I have already taken the intro to German and been through the Spouse orientation, as well as heart link," said Mrs. Robinson. "[Hagen] is a wonderful guide and he has a great sense of humor."
Where did these programs come from? Who decided that we needed them?
Hagen Volke has been working at the A&FRC since May 2010, when he started as a volunteer. A position for the cultural adaptation liaison officer became available and Mr. Volke was eager to take on this challenge. He has been a part of many of the programs offered, but when it come to the everyday struggles of the men and women coming over to Germany he saw that there was more than could be done.
This 20-year veteran of the German army experienced some of the same frustrations that we do, while serving in other countries, while on temporary duty in the U.S.
"I ran into the same issues there as people do here," said Mr. Volke. "It would have been nice if there were someone there to help."
The programs offered on base and through the A&FRC are there to assist those that are new and experienced at overseas living. There is something for everything. The programs are delivered by experienced and helpful staff members. This is not just for dependents, but for all Department of Defense personnel as well.
"I believe in the value of the programs I run for the community," said Mr. Volke. "I know from my own experience that these programs contribute a great deal towards mission readiness. For military families it is a valuable source of information and help which again contributes to the mission."