By Capt Tony Vincelli
Idaho National Guard Public Affairs
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (6/7/12) - The Idaho National Guard’s continuing exchange with Cambodia as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program is steadily gaining ground, officials from both countries said recently.
“In just a few years, the Idaho National Guard has built strong relationships with a
number of our Cambodian counterparts and made significant progress in determining the direction both we and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces would like to see this partnership grow,” said Air Force Capt. Chris Borders, SPP Coordinator with the Idaho Guard.
The 20-year-old SPP pairs up Guard units with countries throughout the world as a way to build and foster greater ongoing relationships.
For the Idaho Guard, the latest subject matter expert exchange took place in Phnom Penh May 14-25 and focused on vehicle maintenance and logistics. Future exchanges focusing on medical first responders and response to a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response are scheduled for the coming months.
Borders said he hopes the Idaho-Cambodia partnership will build on an already established connections between western U.S. states and Southeast Asian countries through the SPP, such as the Washington-Thailand and Oregon’s partnership with Bangladesh. Additional regional alliances are in the works, officials say, though nothing has been finalized.
In order to do that, Borders and his teams of subject matter experts are building trust and rapport through continuity.
“When we step out into any one of these places that we’ve worked at, everyone
recognizes us and it makes it easier for them to trust us,” said Sgt. 1st Class Damon Moÿsard, a training instructor and supply clerk at the Idaho Army National Guard’s Regional Training Site Maintenance facility at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho.
Moÿsard’s most recent trip to Cambodia consisted of sharing best practices for setting up a trackable and organized supply system for the RCAF’s wheeled vehicle fleet. He said that the Cambodia missions have evolved from first identifying capabilities and now focus on sharing ideas for how to refine their maintenance processes.
“The RCAF soldiers are extremely smart and talented,” said Moÿsard. “They don’t need any training from us, but we’re hoping we can give them ideas to make everything run a little smoother.”
Another one of the goals of the exchange is the ability to learn what Borders calls “field expediency”.
The U.S. military has some of the best and most capable equipment out there, said Borders. But, even with the latest equipment, Soldiers still need to know ways to get the job done, no matter what, especially if they are in a situation with limited resources.
During the exchange, the RCAF soldiers taught their Idaho counterparts field expedient methods for swapping an engine in a 2.5 ton truck. Lacking a hoist to remove the engine, U.S. Soldiers observed as RCAF soldiers lassoed a steel-belted fan belt to a banana tree. The belt was then wrapped around the underside of the engine and, as the RCAF soldiers eased the tension on the bending tree, the engine eased out of the engine compartment.
While he admitted there are always safety considerations to keep in mind, Borders stressed the ingenuity behind the method and added it could come in handy in a deployed environment.
“A lot of people might mistake a lack of resources with a lack of abilities and that is simply not the case,” said Borders. “There is much that we can—and have—learned.”