ARLINGTON, Va. - Maneuvering through the woods of Fort A.P. Hill, Va. and Camp Dawson, W.V. during their recent two-week annual training, the Maryland Army National Guard embedded a handful of members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina in an effort to further enhance their ability to work together.
The training opportunity was part of the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, a program that partners state National Guards with emerging nations from around the world.
"We have been partnered with Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2003," said Army Capt. A.B. Canfield, the Maryland National Guard bilateral affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy Office of Defense Cooperation in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"Over the course of this almost decade-long partnership, there have been more than 400 Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers in Bosnia-Herzegovina to participate in exercises and training here," Canfield said from his office in Sarajevo. "There have also been more than 300 members of the Bosnia-Herzegovina military forces in the United States participating in similar events as well."
One thing that Canfield believes is unique to the Maryland-Bosnia SPP is the establishment of an AFBiH liaison officer within the Maryland National Guard joint staff.
Officially the liaison officer serves as the deputy defense attaché at the Bosnia-Herzegovina embassy in Washington, but that officer also serves as an advisor to the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said Army Maj. Matthew DiNenna, the Maryland National Guard SPP director.
In addition to the liaison, Maryland embeds a handful of AFBiH soldiers every year with Maryland National Guard units.
"Every year we have a handful of AFBiH soldiers come over to Maryland and attend the two-week annual training of each major Maryland National Guard unit through a program we call Unit Level Familiarization," said Canfield.
"They are embedded into the units and are participating alongside their Maryland National Guard colleagues, and we anticipate that being a habitual relationship where we continue having the AFBiH soldiers come to Maryland," he said. "All ready this year, we have had AFBiH soldiers in Maryland nine different times."
During the recent annual training, AFBiH soldiers were embedded with Maryland National Guard infantry units, long-range surveillance units, and support and command elements.
"This was my first time working with the Bosnians, and it's very helpful - I love it," said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Stasny, a team leader with Troop C, 1st Squadron, 158th Cavalry Regiment (Long Range Surveillance). "Our embed has been incorporated into about 70 percent of what we've been doing, and he's asking a lot of questions about why we do stuff the way we do. It's a great learning experience."
The relationship built with Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a very beneficial one, Canfield said.
"This is especially true if we can flip-flop roles and go there to train on their ground just like they are here," Stasny said. "I'd love to have our teams go out there."
Canfield said an embedded deployment between the AFBiH and the Maryland National Guard is scheduled for Afghanistan in January 2013, where members of the AFBiH will be part of the operations of the Maryland Army Guard's 115th Military Police Battalion.
"The Bosnians are already deploying with a group of Danes in Afghanistan, as well as some staff officers with the Germans and a few military police officer trainers in Kandahar, but this will be the first time they will deploy with any U.S. military units," he said.
Canfield said the partnership with Bosnia-Herzegovina has been useful to increase that country's ability to work effectively with other NATO allies and has allowed a greater understanding of the standards, tactics, techniques and procedures of NATO partners
"The partnership has also allowed those who have worked alongside Maryland Guard members to work on their English, as well as improve their civil-military emergency procedures and disaster response - something their armed forces can be empowered to do, just like the National Guard," he said.
For Maryland National Guard members, Canfield believes the opportunity afforded through the partnership has allowed Guard members to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that AFBiH soldiers face.
"It's really made our Soldiers more culturally and internationally aware," he said. "A lot of the guys in the AFBiH have had their own war experiences to share and it's great having our guys learn from them."
Maryland has also had a partnership with Estonia - one of the very first state partnerships - since 1993.