NEWS | Nov. 6, 2008

State Partnership for Peace units pair up for deployment

By Sgt. Lee Elder 118th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Tenn. Army National Guard

HOHENFELS, Germany - The pairing of state National Guards with former Warsaw Pact nations to train Afghanistan National Army soldiers has been "a huge success" during its early stages, officials report.

The first group - a task force of Latvian soldiers supplemented by members of the Michigan Army National Guard - debuted during the just-concluded Operational Mentor and Liaison Team exercise. They will deploy together to Afghanistan next month.

"The partnering of these nations is really establishing this holistic approach to the global war on terror," said Maj. Frank Buchheit, director of training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. "There are so many countries who want to contribute, but don't necessarily have the means to contribute entirely.

"Now, with this state partnership program, they have the ability to contribute." Buchheit said another group will be here next month. Soldiers from Hungary and the Ohio National Guard make up the second group. More could follow.

For more than a decade, states militias have been partnered with former Warsaw Pact nations and breakaway Soviet republics. The partners have trained together both overseas and in the U.S.

Units do the first level of their training at their home stations. They do their second phase at JMRC and then do the final level in Afghanistan. These combined Partnership for Peace units do all three levels of training together.

"This is just an absolute huge step in the right direction to enable more nations to contribute in action that they support the GWOT," Buchheit said. "There's been training in the past, but now they get the opportunity to contribute to the GWOT. It's absolutely essential."

The training at JMRC has evolved over the years, Buchheit said. It started out with five situational training exercise lanes, but now has expanded to cover the battalion staff. It now includes interaction with Afghanistan National Army members who are brought to Hohenfels to primarily receive training, and secondly to provide realistic scenarios, vignettes and learning to be OMLTs.

"The success rate of units that has completed the training is tremendous," Buchheit said. "They are more likely to succeed in the Level 3 training."

Buchheit credits the JMRC cadre members with this improvement. It has allowed the diverse units to experience more realistic training.

"You've got some squared away officers and NCOs down there who aren't content with the status quo," Buchheit said. "They have taken the program to a couple of different echelons.

"We continue to improve the program each time." Buchheit said he believes the training will enhance the partnerships between the states and former Warsaw Pact nations. The arrangement will only serve to heighten the battle against terrorists.

"We're now spreading the spirit of cooperation farther across the broader breath," Buchheit said. "The more we do this, the better. I think it's absolutely great."