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NEWS | May 26, 2010

Colorado Guard, Slovenia team to mentor Afghan army

By Army Sgt. Aaron Rognstad Colorado National Guard

CENTENNIAL, Colo., - Family, friends and fellow Soldiers were on hand at a departure ceremony here at the Joint Force Headquarters to send off 12 Colorado Army National Guard Citizen-Soldiers, who will deploy to Afghanistan as part of an Operational Mentor and Liaison Team-Augmentation to train and mentor the Afghan National army.

The OMLT-A Soldiers, the majority of whom are combat veterans, will join 30 Slovenian soldiers in country for the six-month mission.

Colorado Guard and Slovene soldiers will arrive in Afghanistan in early fall after a summer of training in Fort Polk, La., and in Germany.

Sgt. Nicholas Puetz of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry, will be making his fifth deployment in a 10-year career with this team. This will be his second trip to Afghanistan.

"This is going to be a lot of fun, and it's going to be intense at times," he said, "but it's going to be good for relations."

The Colorado Guard and the republic of Slovenia have become strong allies over their 17-year collaboration through the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

The Colorado SPP works closely with National Guard Bureau International Affairs, U.S. European Command, as well as the Slovenian embassy, and strives to advance strong military-to-military and civilian-to-military foreign relations with select countries.

The OMLT-A is part of NATO's International Security and Assistance Force's contribution toward the development of the ANA. The ISAF's military objectives include assisting the Afghan government to extend its authority countrywide by conducting security operations with the Afghan National Security Forces and mentoring the ANA.

The SPP was established in 1993 in response to the radically changed political-military situation following the collapse of Communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

The SPP provides Slovenia with access to experts within the state of Colorado on the full range of military to military, military to civilian and civilian to civilian activities.

The intent is to build upon the relationships that have been developed over time with the Colorado National Guard. During this time military and civic leaders have been part of an exchange program focused primarily on Slovenia's military and their pursuit of membership of NATO.

Now that Slovenia is a member of NATO the intent is to do more exchanges to support one another and improve the strategic objectives of both Slovenia and the United States.