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Idaho National Guard conducts SPP exchange in Cambodia

By Capt. Robert Taylor | Idaho Army National Guard | Oct. 7, 2019

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen participated in a subject-matter expert exchange with members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Sept. 16–20 at the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations center.

The mission, part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, included a team of four Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers and two 124th Fighter Wing Airmen. Subject-matter expert exchanges facilitate the sharing of ideas, capabilities, training and experience between a host country and a state’s National Guard.

“These exchanges provide a great opportunity for our Idaho Guardsmen to not only train alongside Cambodian soldiers, but to also learn and grow, both personally and professionally,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho.

Garshak and a small team of Idaho National Guardsmen also spent the week in Cambodia meeting with embassy officials and discussing ways to better collaborate.

Soldiers and Airmen spent the week training with members of Cambodia’s peacekeeping directorate who are preparing to deploy to several countries as part of the National Center for Peacekeeping, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance program. More than 70 NPMEC Soldiers made up three groups consisting of engineer, medical and leadership engagements.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goodman. “Their ingenuity is through the roof.”

Throughout the week, Goodman and Lt. Col. Brandon Pieper explored basic first aid and CPR techniques with NPMEC soldiers.

Pieper, a traditional Guard member and dentist from Boise, Idaho, said he volunteered to participate in the exchange to get outside his comfort zone of providing dental exams during drill weekend. He also wanted to work with members of the Idaho Army National Guard.

He said the experience gave him a similar perspective to deploying with the Army and having to form a team with people he doesn’t usually work with.

Engineer Soldiers from both armies built a 30-foot beam bridge over a creek to increase their understanding of bridging concepts. The bridge will allow future students at the PKO to access the facility’s helicopter pad more quickly.

“Working with the NPMEC soldiers left me energized each day with their enthusiasm of learning,” said Maj. Steve Keeton, an engineer officer.

Soldiers also reviewed and practiced troop leading procedures, land navigation and basic leadership skills.

The exchange occurred during Cambodia’s Pchum Ben, a 15-day religious festival, which gave Soldiers and Airmen the chance to visit a temple and experience the country’s culture. Idaho and Cambodia have participated in the State Partnership Program since 2009. Soldiers and Airmen from the Idaho National Guard conduct approximately four subject-matter expert exchanges in Cambodia each year.