VAZIANI, Georgia - Less than one year ago, Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers of the Swainsboro-based 810th Engineer Company (Sapper) were conducting debris clearance operations in the coastal counties of the State of Georgia in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Now, those same engineers are half a world away supporting the armed forces of the Country of Georgia with combat engineer training as part of Exercise Noble Partner 17.
"We will be at this location for several days conducting blank and live fire," said Capt. Christopher Butler, commander of the 810th. "Our training will progress into (demolitions)."
For nearly 10 days, the combat engineers will live in tents pitched on the dry grassy side of a mountain in a remote rocky section of the Vaziani Training Area. During that time, the engineers will train with a company of Engineers from the Georgian Armed Forces on tasks such as range operations, obstacle emplacement and removal.
Noble Partner 2017 is the third iteration of Noble Partner. The exercise will be held in Vaziani and Camp Norio training areas in Georgia for the first two weeks of August. The purpose of the exercise is to support Georgia's training of a second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force.
For many Soldiers, like Sgt. Maurice Taylor of Waycross and Pfc. Jalin Anderson of Augusta. this is their first experience as part of an overseas mission.
"It has been a lot of good training," said Taylor. Anderson agreed, citing the opportunity to travel and experience new cultures while training in a new environment.
Brigadier General Tom Blackstock, commander of the 78th Troop Command, visited the combat engineers at Vaziani as they began construction of a small arms range. A sapper himself, Blackstock shared memories of past mobilizations and exercises as commander of the 265th Engineer Group and 648th Engineer Battalion (Sapper).
Blackstock also recognized two Soldiers with challenge coins for excellent service. Cpl. Andrew Fergine and Sgt. Caleb Taylor were recommended by Capt. Butler for their contributions to the unit.
"Sgt. Andrew Fergine was on the advanced party," said Butler. "He was a game changer."
Butler noted that Taylor was an outstanding NCO who had gone above and beyond expectations.
In addition to the engineers of the 810th, Georgia Army National Guard members of the Marietta-based Company H, 121st Infantry (Long Range Surveillance) and 165th Quartermaster are participating in Noble Partner 2017 along with aviators and crews of the Savannah-based 165th Airlift Wing, Georgia Air National Guard. They are part of a multi-national involvement that includes units from U.S. Army Europe as well as service members and equipment from Germany, Armenia, United Kingdom, Turkey and Slovenia. Nearly 3,000 Soldiers will contribute to the exercise.