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Oregon-Vietnam partnership enhances skills; helps Soldiers find friends across the world

By Staff Sgt. Jason Van Mourik | Oregon Military Department | Oct. 2, 2014

HANOI, Vietnam – Ten domestic emergency and response experts from the Oregon National Guard’s CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) participated in a series of informational and practical exchanges, Sept. 21–28, in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Nine Citizen-Soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard’s 224th Engineer Company, and one Citizen-Airman from the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing traveled halfway across the world to train with, learn from and engage with Vietnamese engineers of the 249th Engineer Brigade, Vietnam People’s Army, through Oregon’s State Partnership Program with Vietnam’s National Committee for Search and Rescue (VINASARCOM). The training includes a variety of search and rescue scenarios including rappelling, rescue hoist operations, casualty extraction and rigging.

The week-long exchange not only brought together search and extraction experts from two nations, but also forged friendships to last a lifetime.

“The Oregon SPP with Vietnam is an incredible opportunity for our Citizen-Soldiers to conduct foreign relations training with Vietnam, said Capt. Thanh Vo, 224th Engineer Company commander. “Where in the past we were fighting on opposite sides, today we are exchanging skills to better improve our capabilities to save our fellow countrymen’s lives.”

Facing temperatures in the high 90’s and low 100’s, with humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife, this group of Oregonians continued to not only provide top notch training, but also find the time throughout the day to make personal connections with the 74 Vietnamese engineers they worked with.

“The joint training environment that we worked in with the Vietnamese was beneficial to our Soldiers,” Vo continued. “It provided the opportunity to not only work with people outside of the National Guard, but to learn and train with Soldiers from an entirely different culture.”

Vo said the skills the Oregon Guardsmen learned in bridging communication barriers and creating relationships is key to solidifying the National Guard as a component of the United States’ international presence.

The Oregon National Guard formally began a partnership with Vietnam’s VINASARCOM in November of 2012 through the National Guard State Partnership Program.