By Army Master Sgt. Rich Kem
Minnesota National Guard
KNIN, Croatia (5/31/2012) - Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard's 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment recently teamed up with soldiers from the Croatian armed forces for an annual exercise called GUARDEX 12.
During the exercise, the Minnesota Soldiers integrated with Croatian soldiers and conducted platoon level training.
"Things went very well," said Army Capt. Peter Rampaart, training officer for the 2-136 CAB. "Soldiers from both countries were very motivated."
This marks the 16th year that Minnesota and Croatia have worked together in various programs as part of the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, which pairs up National Guard units with countries worldwide as a way to build greater relationships.
The GUARDEX 12 training took place near Knin, Croatia. The first phase of the training involved familiarization with the Croatian weapon systems and a live fire with assault rifles, pistols, machine guns, RPG-7s and RPG-22s.
The training integrated Croatian and U.S. soldiers together to conduct tasks such as route reconnaissance, cordon and search, reacting to an ambush and room clearing missions.
"We brought it all together and it went pretty well," said Army 1st Lt. Chad Malmberg, platoon leader with Company A, 2-136 CAB.
The training was observed by Army Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard.
"I was greatly impressed by GUARDEX 12," said Nash. "It was well planned and executed by both the Croatian and Minnesota soldiers. It was led flawlessly by the junior officers and enlisted soldiers."
Nash observed the training with Croatian army Maj. Gen. Dragutin Rapinc, land forces commanding general, Croatian army Brig. Gen. Mladen Fuzel, commander of the Croatian motorized brigade and Croatian army Lt. Col. Zoran Lipoš?ak, military cooperation chief with the Croatian Army.
Many were impressed by what they saw.
"All the officers and enlisted soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard have been very professional and well-trained," said Lipoš?ak.
And the training was beneficial to both the Minnesota and Croatian soldiers as well.
"It was very valuable for our Soldiers to take away experience in tactics and the Croatian weapons systems," said Nash. "For the Croatian soldiers, the experience increases their credibility within their region and their homeland."
The exercise not only provided outstanding training, but developed friendships between soldiers in a partnership that began in 1996 and will continue into the future.