Lt. Col. Christian Rack took over as the new deputy commander for the German Air Force Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss Sept. 18. He oversees the day-to-day operations at the center, which provides training to 350 to 400 German officers and NCOs each year. (Photo by David Burge / Special for the Fort Bliss Bugle)

Right where he belongs: GAFADC deputy happy to be back at Bliss

10/24/19, 12:00 AM

By David Burge, Special to the Fort Bliss Bugle

The new deputy commander for the German Air Force Air Defense Center is right where he wants to be – back at Fort Bliss.

“It is great to be here,” said Lt. Col. Christian Rack. “I have loved this place since the first time I came here.”

Rack, a 39-year-old from Rostock, Germany, took over in his new job Sept. 18. As deputy commander, Rack runs the day-to-day operations of the Germans’ air defense center, which provides training to about 350 to 400 German officers and noncommissioned officers each year.

The GAFADC’s commander – Lt. Col. Ingo Scharschmidt – is actually based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and commands the Germans’ Fort Bliss element remotely.

Rack had previously been stationed at Fort Bliss and lived in El Paso for about seven months in 2004-05, when he went through a Patriot course. He has been back several times since then for additional training and has spent about a year-and-half at Fort Bliss during his career.

He and his family are thrilled to be back. Most recently, Rack served as a staff officer with the German Air Force headquarters in Berlin.

“When the plane landed in the evening [back in 2004], you saw all these bright lights, the big city, seeing the Star on the Mountain, it was totally overwhelming,” Rack said. “I fell in love [with Fort Bliss and El Paso] from the first moment and couldn’t imagine ever getting the chance to come back over here as a staff officer years later.”

His wife, Katharina, was his girlfriend back in 2004. She came out to visit for a couple of weeks and also fell in love with the Borderland.

“When I told her we had the opportunity to come back for several years, she said, ‘Yes, of course,’” Rack said. “We didn’t even have to think about it.”

The nice climate, especially compared to winters back home in Germany, and the people at Fort Bliss and El Paso, make the Borderland stand out, he said.

Rack, his wife and their two young daughters have been busy exploring their new home area since they returned back in August. They have already been to White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns and San Antonio, he said.

Professionally, Rack helps to lead an organization that has a rich history and tradition. The German military has had a presence at Fort Bliss since 1956, just 11 years after World War II ended. The German Air Force started its air defense school in 1966, later changing its name to the air defense center in 2005. In recent years, the Germans have been downsizing their presence at Fort Bliss. The German Air Force deactivated its North American Command at Fort Bliss back in 2013. 

The air defense center continues to operate here, but there are plans to eventually move it to Germany. The center will stay at Fort Bliss until early 2022, according to German officials.

About 85 German soldiers and 25 civilians are still stationed at Fort Bliss. Rack said their job is to continue to provide a high level of training and education “until the last minute.”

Fort Bliss provides a great opportunity to do air defense training with its wide-open space and mild weather that is conducive to conducting year-round operations, Rack said.

Rack also said the Germans will continue to remain strongly connected to the El Paso community as long as they are here, with things like their charitable arm, Aid For the Needy.

The Germans will host their annual Christmas Bazaar from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 23 at the former Oktoberfest site, 747 Carter Road.

Rack succeeds Lt. Col. Henri Neubert, who is now stationed in Cologne, Germany, as a staff officer with the German Air Force’s Troop Command.