FORT PICKETT, Va. - Members of the Virginia Army National Guard recently concluded four weeks of working hand-in-hand with members of the Danish Home Guard as part of the Department of Defense Reserve Officers Foreign Exchange Program and a growing relationship between the Virginia National Guard and the Danish Home Guard.
The annual program provides Virginia Army Guard officers the opportunity to take part in a four-week military exchange program with Denmark-two weeks there, two weeks here. The program was created to maintain tactical and mobilization proficiency between allies, who often work together while deployed, and improve cross-cultural understanding and relationships.
Fifteen members of the Virginia Army Guard travelled to Camp Nymindegab, Denmark, where they participated in Exercise Viking Star, an infantry-focused, live fire exercise with members of the U.S. Army, Danish Home Guard, and the British Army. Viking Star provides participants an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with allies to further develop collaborative combat skills.
"Gaining exposure to both the differences and similarities in how our NATO allies think and execute was probably the best part of the exercise," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael A. Drabowicz, platoon leader assigned to the Virginia Army Guard's Company F, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "We actually got to assault an old World War II bunker as part of the exercise too."
In addition, senior leaders from the Virginia Army Guard learned how the Danish Home Guard manages its logistics, light infantry operations and its day-to-day activities.
In turn, members of the Danish Home Guard visited various Virginia Army Guard facilities, training sites and units. The visit began with the Joint Operations Center in Sandston, Virginia, where they met with the watch officers and noncommissioned officers and discussed how the JOC maintains operational oversight. They then travelled to Fort Pickett, Virginia, to visit the 34th Civil Support Team.
"It was great to visit with the Danish contingent," said U.S. Army Maj. Michael Booker, commander of the 34th Civil Support Team. "They were very interested in our capabilities and had lots of questions about our mission, the type of training we conduct and how we would be employed in a domestic emergency."
Personnel from the 34th CST provided an information brief and a survey sampling demonstration.
The Danish military officers then visited the 183rd Regiment (Regional Training Institute) where U.S. Army Col. Thomas L. Morgan III, commander of the unit, provided a brief overview, led a tour of the RTI campus and showed the contingent the Air Assault Obstacle Course.
"The Danish Home Guard Officers actively engaged with our staff and instructors as we explained our mission, courses, logistics, and support to the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and active component," Morgan said. "We are the equivalent of their Camp Nymindegab so there was a mutual appreciation and respect that fostered a great exchange of information."
"There is certainly a benefit in future exchanges between our instructors and participating in each other's training," said Morgan. "My counterpart explained they already have some trainers that are certified by U.S. Army instructor courses."
"Their techniques and expertise are likely as beneficial to us as ours to them," explained Morgan.
The Danish military officers also observed several units from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct individual and crew served weapons qualification events during training at Fort Pickett.
In addition to visiting Fort Pickett, the Danish officers visited Soldiers from the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit, 91st Troop Command. The DPU specializes in cyber defense and information security. During the visit, the DPU provided a general briefing about their capabilities and demonstrated several tools associated with information assurance and vulnerability assessments.
"The Danish visit provided our Soldiers an opportunity to discuss unit missions and capabilities," explained U.S. Army Col. Adam C. Volant, commander of the DPU. "A particular highlight of their visit was having them see tools used in wireless vulnerability assessments."
The Danish officers concluded their trip by visiting the National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon and the monuments surrounding the National Capital Region.
"Interaction with international troops on a regular basis assists us develop the interpersonal, communication, and operational skills relevant to participating in coalition and NATO operations," Morgan said. "The Danish Home Guard provides a unique opportunity to interact and learn from a similar military organization focused on civil support as well national security missions."