When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, his armies got into major trouble when inadequate provisions were made to supply the troops. That problem, along with disease and the brutal winter weather, decimated his force of a half million troops.
That fiasco is perhaps the truest example of a quote sometimes attributed to the French emperor and which remains true: “An army marches on its stomach.” Modern armies still rely on sufficient supply lines and efficient logistics to stay prepared for conflict.
Jack Kiel, a UWM senior, is spending the summer in Germany studying those issues after receiving a Department of Defense National Security Innovation Network’s X-Force fellowship.
X-Force Fellows are university students embedded with military commands for applied national security problem-solving. Now in its third year, the program involves 237 full-time paid interns and 46 part-time volunteers from 88 universities.
Kiel, who is majoring in supply chain and operations management, is based in Stuttgart, Germany, working with the U.S. European command.
How military services can work together
He applied for the fellowship because “it’s very logistics based, which happens to fit in with what I’m studying.” In addition to being an experience that would be good for his resume, he added, it gave him the opportunity to spend the summer in Germany with his father, a former Air Force reservist who is currently working in Germany.
Kiel is one of eight students at the Stuttgart base that are part of the project. His four-person team is focusing on the logistical plans in the European theater – how the different military services and their allies are working together.
“They brought us in as new eyes to see what kind of gaps or problems we might see,” he said.
Kiel has been focusing on the U.S. partnership with the United Kingdom. His work involves reading through documents, partnership agreements and historical data and interviewing the people involved in carrying out the work. “We want to find out more about what they do on the job, and how they interact with logistics and operations.”
The goal is to make sure that if a military action happens or war breaks out, the U.S. and its allies have all their logistical needs covered, he said. More than 28,000 military members from all branches of the services are based at Stuttgart, along with another 5,000 civilians, representatives of federal agencies and family members.
Seeing family in Germany
The fellowship has given Kiel the opportunity to spend time with his family for the first time in several years. His mother is visiting from his hometown of Neenah, and his younger sister just finished a study abroad in Germany and is planning to stay for a gap year.
“It’s the first time all four of us have been together since 2016 or 2017, so it’s kind of like old times; everyone being back,” Kiel said.
With COVID-19 restrictions, traveling to Germany was challenging, and touring within the country was also difficult, Kiel said.
“When I first got here, there were still a lot of COVID restrictions, which was kind of a bummer, but stuff’s finally opening up and we can go to restaurants and beer gardens.” He and friends are planning trips to other German cities like Heidelberg and Munich, and he’s been enjoying hiking. In the near future, he’s planning to head to the nearby Black Forest area to go hiking and do some zip lining.
“I’m loving it here,” he said, but added he is also looking forward to returning to UWM and Milwaukee, where he’ll finish his studies and work part-time at the Klotsche Center.
“I’m excited about returning to have one more year of ‘normal’ college life.”
Teacher helps guide path
He’s proud to be representing UWM in the fellowship program, he added. He’s reached out with a thank-you note to Michael Freimark, senior lecturer in the Lubar School of Business who first suggested the then-new supply chain and operations management major to him. Kiel was a first-year student who wasn’t sure what he wanted to focus on. But he’d always enjoyed putting things together and organizing stuff, so felt the program might be a good fit.
“I thanked him for pointing me in this direction. I told him about my experiences and how much I’m enjoying it here and wouldn’t have known about the field if he hadn’t suggested it.”