In 2017, before he joined AlixPartners’ Aerospace, Defense & Airlines practice, Manuel Roth flew into Mali as a UN Blue Helmet—a peacekeeper—with German forces just days after a fatal Tiger helicopter crash that had killed two.
There, he took over command of the 60-soldier company responsible for operating an airfield in the West African country, as part of the German helicopter task force, a helicopter engineer working in a management role. The Tiger incident underscored the stakes from both a technical and leadership standpoint. “The soldiers were struggling, as we had lost two comrades,” Manuel recalls.
Manuel made the 12-year commitment to the German military after school, earning graduate and post-graduate degrees in aerospace engineering while working as a helicopter engineer and later a company commander. He continued that work on leave recently, serving as a reservist and taking the role of the company commander of the military line maintenance company for the NH90 transport helicopter, manufactured by Airbus, in the 30th Transport Helicopter Regiment.
You might recognize the NH90 from the movie Gran Turismo. It was used in Afghanistan and Mali for medevac operations in a two-ship formation consisting of an NH90 with a medical doctor and full triage setup for two patients, and then a second helicopter serving as a gunship to circle the landing zone and protect the other chopper.
When his years of service came to an end, Manuel knew that he wanted to transition to a civilian role while contributing partial hours as a reservist. He chose to pursue an Master’s of Law in M&A at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, where he connected with AlixPartners and was subsequently recruited to the firm.
Joining AlixPartners meant Manuel could pair his passion as a technical expert with the value he strived to bring companies as a consultant.
“I want to build an edge in defense advisory services… and it helps to show clients we have Army reservists that know what the product is and how it is used.”
Consulting with Airbus, he knows the products intimately. The structured decision-making process used within NATO doctrine mirrors the process he uses in his role at AlixPartners to take decisive action when the pressure is on.
“In combat situations, you had to make decisions without knowing all the details, taking action and ownership and showing the braveness within yourself that you're expecting from the troops.”
Before joining the firm, Manuel had a conversation with the head of AlixPartners’ German Aerospace, Defense & Airlines practice about his military service, which the firm was happy to honor.
Manuel is also involved with raising the profile of the firm’s Military and Uniformed Services Team (MUST) employee resource group. One of the hurdles is that German people don’t tend to use the word “veteran” even if they were in uniform, since the Department of Defense only defined the term in 2018. To that end, Manuel led an effort during the AlixPartners holiday party to raise awareness of the medal available to all who have served with Bundeswehr, the German military, whether they left recently or years ago.
Going forward, Manuel wants to raise the profile of MUST in his region and encourage allies and veterans alike to join and to learn more about the knowledge and tactical prowess they bring to the firm.
“There are synergies in having veterans at AlixPartners. It’s good to have colleagues doing Reserve Army training because they bring a lot of new ideas back to the firm.”