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NEWS | Nov. 19, 2021

Minnesota National Guard, Croatia strengthen 25-year ties

By Anthony Housey, Camp Ripley Training Center

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. – Six leaders of the Croatian Army visited Camp Ripley and the Regional Training Institute – Maintenance Oct. 25-29 as part of its 25-year partnership with the Minnesota National Guard under the State Partnership Program.

The event, conducted at Camp Ripley and organized by the schoolhouse under the 175th RTI, included the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) and M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle Advanced Maintenance Course.

“We take our maintenance seriously, and it is a fantastic opportunity for our cadre to evaluate and apply their skills assisting our partners from Croatia,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kevin Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard’s J4 (Logistics).

Since 1996, the Minnesota National Guard and the nation of Croatia have been collaborating through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP). This program encourages international cooperative relationships. For more than 25 years, many exchanges of service members from Croatia and Minnesota have taken place. The arrival of this team of maintainers is the most recent.

The first part of the detailed MRAP training was tailored to the Croatian’s initial questions and based on their knowledge of the vehicle, its operating ability and maintenance. The team quickly built up steam and was rapidly working with the cadre on various maintenance activities and scenarios.

“The instructors started on MRAP basics and familiarization going over preventative maintenance checks and services as well as scheduled service and assigned equipment,” said OF1 (Lt.) Mateo Mikolic, head of machine and final works section for the Croatian Army.

After the wheeled vehicle instruction, the Croatians studied the M2/M3 Bradley. Training aids and presentations such as the driving and rollover trainer made the already hands-on course more exciting and provided a realistic perspective.

“Everyone was eager to learn the operations of I and II level maintenance and really enjoyed getting deep into the Bradley,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Johnson, chief instructor at the RTS-M. “Typically, this is a six-week course, and it’s a lot to absorb in five days, but with everyone working together, the Croatians picked it up very quickly.”

Troubleshooting and a class on special tools wrapped up the instruction portion of the course. The visitors then toured historic Camp Ripley and soaked up some Minnesota culture before returning to Croatia.