By Louis Roer

On Thursday, 13 October 2022, the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) invited DAJV members to visit the U.S. military presence in the Kaiserslautern area, namely the Kleber barracks and Ramstein Air Base. For the third time, Isabel Cagala, head of DAJV Young Professionals, organized the exciting trip. Students, lawyers and professors participated in the event which promised interesting legal insights into the presence of the U.S. Military in Germany as well as first-handed impressions of Ramstein Air Base. Transport to Kleber barracks was provided either by a bus charted by the DAJV or, alternatively, by private car. After a brief security check, the door opened to a piece of America in Germany.

Major Dane M. Rockow, Chief of National Security Law, 21st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) warmly welcomed the DAJV while Colonel (Retired) R. Peter Masterton offered some American snacks such as Snickers and Mars. Notably, the military imports everything consumed in the barracks and on the airbase directly from the U.S., be it a Snickers bar, a coffee cup, or beverages – more on this below.

Joerg C. Moddelmog, LL.M. (USA), Senior German Attorney-Advisor, HQ, 21st TSC; Colonel (Retired) R. Peter Masterton, Chief, International Law, 21st TSC; Captain Olivia A. Haigler; Captain John R. McMahon (from left to right)

The U.S. in Germany

After the introduction, Captain John R. McMahon started by briefly explaining the legal basis of the U.S. presence in Germany. Already in the beginning, Captain McMahon stressed the special relationship between the military and acronyms. Thus, the captain led the audience through the acronym jungle: EUCOM (EUropeanCOMmand), USAREUR-AF (USARmyEURopeandAFrica), and APO AE 09 (Army/Air Force Post Office Armed Forces Europe) to mention only a few. Captain McMahon explained the structure of the Department of Defense which now also includes the US Space Force. He explained the importance of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the structure of the 21st TSC which is based in Kaiserslautern. Captain McMahon and Captain Olivia A. Haigler were wearing their Blue Service Uniform. However, the U.S. military will return to the former and well-known “Pinks and Greens” whilst the Blue Service Uniform will return to its former use as a ceremonial and parade uniform. In the end, the Captain pointed out that the acronym of an HMMWV (better known as “Humvee”) means High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle—another example of a bulky acronym.

American Military Justice

In the usual great American lecture style, Captain Olivia A. Haigler continued with a presentation on U.S. Military Justice. She picked up the audience with the comparison between common law and civil law—the differences are also apparent in military criminal proceedings when it comes to jury trials and cross-examination to give an example. Captain Haigler introduced herself as part of the General Prosecutor Office. Together with Captain McMahon, she is responsible to prosecute all non-sex assault offenses.

The guiding principle in military justice is discipline. Therefore, the U.S. military has its own court system for offenses committed by military personnel. In these cases, the Uniform Code of Military Justice applies. The penalty sentences range from so-called Administrative Actions, Nonjudicial Punishment (NJP) to Judicial Punishments. In case of expected Judicial Punishments, the military member gets prosecuted, and the military rules of evidence apply. For these purposes, the barrack has its own courtroom. During the trial, special victim counsels are assigned to the victim.

As a common law particularity, the accused has of course the right to a jury trial. However, in contrast to ordinary jury trials, the majority of ¾ suffices to find an accused guilty meaning that 6 of 8 jury members suffice to find an accused guilty. This is to avoid lengthy decision-making as the focus lies on military efficiency.

In the end, the general in command has the final saying on whether somebody is guilty or how long the sentence should be. Again, the guiding principles are good order and discipline and there are manifold ways to accomplish this mission. The military has established a system to prevent unlawful influence by higher generals.

Claims against the U.S. in Germany

After a short break, Colonel (Retired) R. Peter Masterton, Chief, International Law, 21st TSC then introduced us to the topic of “Claims against the US in Germany”. Masterton first elaborated on a loophole confirmed by the US Supreme Court in Reid v. Covert (1957) according to which there was no jurisdiction over U.S. civilians accompanying U.S. troops in peaceful times. This loophole has eventually been closed, however, there are still some particularities.

Masterton then discussed claims by German nationals against the U.S. Armed Forces for conduct by military personnel. Colonel Masterton specifically addressed claims between NATO member states.

After those informative and yet entertaining lectures, lunch at Kleber barracks was next. The barrack offered plenty of possibilities to get (American) food, reminding the audience of their last trip to the U.S.

Visiting the court room of the U.S. Army.

Nato Status of Forces Agreement and private international law

After Lunch, Joerg C. Moddelmog, LL.M. (USA), Senior German Attorney-Advisor, HQ, 21st TSC continued in his role as German counsel of the U.S. Forces in Germany with questions of private law. He highlighted some peculiarities in civil procedures regarding the NATO Status of Forces Agreement and its supplementary agreements. Being an evergreen of private international law, the lecture on the NATO SOFA was particularly interesting for friends of private international law. Moddelmog led through the scope of the NATO SOFA and stressed some specifics in service and enforcement. As counsel in proceedings touching upon the U.S. presence in Germany, it is of utmost importance to remind German courts to pay attention to the formalities when asking for legal assistance from the American military. A decision that is cast into the shape of an order (“Beschluss) is not worth the paper it is written on, rather the court has to “request”—after all the court has to pay attention to the sovereignty of the U.S. When it comes to service of legal documents, Art 32 NATO SOFA Supplementary Agreement must be observed.

Then, the DAJV was able to visit the courtroom where a trial took place a few minutes before. There, we were able to take a photo, even though taking photos was otherwise prohibited.

Lining up in front of the clock tower at the Kleber Barracks.

Ramstein Air Base

If the barracks already felt like a trip to America, the impression intensified at Ramstein Air Base. A 20-minute bus ride took the audience to the Ramstein Air Base and the military area. Ramstein Air Base provides everything a small town would also offer, except for a train station. Everything is designed to appear American even though the base lies within Europe. It even offers a complete U.S. school system. The reason behind that is that every military member is only stationed for a certain period. Therefore, everything should look familiar to make the changes between military operations in different countries easier.

The C-17 Globemaster III on the taxiway of Ramstein Air Base.

The bus ride took the DAJV visitors past typical American row houses with halloween decorations, a huge American supermarket, sports, and school areas. The tour ended at the taxiway of the military airport. The weather was as harmonious as it could have been: The clouds hung low, and it drizzled slightly. A short walk brought us to a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The C-17 Globemaster III is a strategic transport aircraft, able to airlift cargo close to battle areas all around the world. The design is extremely reduced. As we took a look a look inside the aircraft, we found out that there is no inner paneling at all. Everything is designed to be military-style efficient. A technician patiently answered every question we had. In contrast to the rest of the base, the military allowed the visitors to take as many photos of the C-17 as wanted.

Exploring the hold of aircraft C-17 Globemaster III.

Driving down the airfield in a transport vehicle of the US Air Force.

To conclude, the excursion delivered what it promised. The presentations were all very informative and entertaining.

The DAJV would like to thank the US Army and the US Air Force for the invitation and the truly exciting day! 

About the Author:
Louis Roer is a Research Fellow and Doctoral Candidate at the Heidelberg University, Institute for Comparative Law, Conflict of Laws and International Business Law, Chair Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. (IHU) Thomas Pfeiffer

Responsible Editor:

Isabel Cagala, TLB Co-Editor-in-Chief 

Read all TLB-Reports on Ramstein:

Guns n‘ Greatness – Die DAJV zu Besuch auf der Ramstein Air Base – DAJV

In The Army Now – Exkursion zur US Air Base Ramstein & Rechtsabteilung der US Army – DAJV