Nick Pratt shakes the hand of Lt. Col. (General Staff) Ralf Klewin von Fintel after presenting him with the US "Legion of Merit" award. Feb 12. (Photo: Karlheinz Wedhorn)

By SMSgt. Mark Winkler
GCMC Public Affairs

For German Lt. Col. (General Staff) Ralf Klewin von Fintel, it was supposed to be a normal working week in February at his office in Ulm. However, when he received an urgent email on Monday morning, telling him to appear at his previous post -- the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, he was a little surprised.

For years Colonel Klewin von Fintel used to work for the German-American educational institute as deputy course director of the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies.

When Colonel Klewin von Fintel entered the plenary, the more than 70 course participants from 48 countries rose to listen to course director Nick Pratt.

"The President of the United States of America awards Lieutenant Colonel General Staff Ralf Klewin von Fintel (German Army) the Legion of Merit award.

This award has been donated on July 20, 1942, by the US Congress. It is one of the highest military medals that can also be awarded to foreign officers and people of the general public. Besides the Medal of Honor, it is the only military award of the United States which may also be worn around the neck.

“I would like to point out to all of you that Colonel Klewin von Fintel probably is the first Lieutenant Colonel who ever received this medal”, Mr. Pratt said.

“I never thought I’d even be considered”, Colonel Klewin von Fintel said, rather surprised. “It is a great honor for me to receive this award. It also means a lot for the German-American Partnership."

During a short speech to the course participants he thanked his former team again and pointed out to the participants the importance and the sustainability of this course.

“Networking is the most important part of fighting against terrorism. A single country cannot deal with this problem on its own. Only due to fast and close cooperation we can face the future challenges.” Colonel Klewin von Fintel said that the Marshall Center offers the best possibilities to meet with others. Even at his current post he is still taking advantage of the international connections.