DHAKA, Bangladesh - Two Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers participated in Exercise Shanti Doot 3, a multi-national training exercise here, from March 4 to 21.
Army Staff Sgts. Tyson Pardun and Darrin Culp, medics from the 249 Regional Training Institute joined members of the Oregon National Guard's State Partnership Program as subject matter experts in basic self aid and lifesaving techniques.
"Working in a multi-national environment, it was a great opportunity to see some things we've never seen before, and to help our fellow Soldiers with a critical skill set," Culp said.
The exercise, a Bangladesh armed forces-hosted, and U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) supported joint multi-national exercise is designed to give operations, logistics, planning, and tactical peace-keeping training to members of 13 different countries in preparation for United Nations Peace-keeping operations.
Of the many obstacles they faced, both Pardun and Culp agreed the biggest challenge was the language barrier.
"Not the language per se, but the concepts," Culp said. "When you are talking in concepts [it is hard] getting them to translate into the way that they understand."
Whether discussing wound triaging with Mongolians or splinting a broken arm with Indonesians, Culp and Pardun were continually amazed at the way the information was received.
"They were eager to learn. Some of this basic stuff they have never seen," Culp said. "The reception has been great. We have seen them go out and practice this stuff on their own."
Armed only with their knowledge, the two Soldiers arrived in Bangladesh and designed the curriculum of information they wanted to impart based on the needs of the exercise, as determined through discussions with the PACOM representatives and Bangladeshi organizers.
"We weren't allowed to bring any of our own equipment…they wanted us to use things that these platoons could find themselves," Pardun said.
Using mostly found items, they managed to impart the vital information of lifesaving techniques. The duo gathed sticks and squares of cloth for splints and bandages, used spare belts, and butter knifes borrowed from the chow hall to use as litters and tourniquets.
The Oregon Soldiers also used non-traditional communication techniques in order to bridge the language barrier.
"Hand motions, touching, pointing, drawing, anything you could use until we saw recognition on their faces," Culp said.
Epitomizing the concept of partnership, Culp and Pardun both agreed that the best part has been learning from the platoons. Not just new cultures and languages, but even some new techniques.
"I thought it was great that they were able to show us things that we've never seen before," Pardun said. They wanted to see how they work with their equipment.
The concept of "capacity building" is an important mandate of the Partnership Program, and leaving the tools and expertise for the Bangladeshis to continue to train after the SPP leaves the country.
On their own initiative, Culp and Pardun took this to heart, working closely with Bangladeshi Cpl. Abdul Ahad. Originally responsible for the set up every morning of the classroom, Ahad immediately took an interest in the subject matter and became a trainer himself.
"It was very interesting to me, I have never seen this before," Ahad said.
He become more involved and eventually took over teaching parts of the material under the mentorship of the Oregon Soldiers, Culp and Pardun said.
"Ahad has been great," Culp said. "He is very enthusiastic, and over the course of the week picked up so much of the material that we felt comfortable letting him take lead at times."
"We spoke to the planners of Shanti Doot-3, and said we have this broad portfolio within the Oregon National Guard across all spectrums, and they identified that they needed help in medical," said Oregon Air National Guard Col. Mark Crosby, Director of the Oregon State Partnership Program.
"Two of the events were based on discussions between our senior staff, and three events are in support of Pacific Command events," Crosby said. "Whether we're in the lead or in support of a PACOM event, we just want to maximize the ways the Oregon National Guard can engage with our Bangladeshi partners."
Crosby stressed that a partnership is about building long term relationships.
"This is something the National Guard is especially well-suited to do," he said.
By identifying certain needs based on discussions between partners, Oregon officials identified several opportunities to utilize the expertise of Guard members.
Whether filling gaps in personnel for other U.S. military operations and exercises, or developing information and expertise exchanges directly, the partnership is as much about the information exchange as it is about building relationships.
"Relationships that can be re-invigorated down the road to support long-term theater security," Crosby said.
On his recent visit to Bangladesh, Crosby and his team proposed a project related to first aid for frontline troops.
"It was very well received," said Air Force Maj. Paul Anderson, 173rd Medial Group, and part of the team that developed the proposal.
The plan is to enable the frontline military to provide adequate lifesaving aid to personnel in civilian and military engagements. By providing manuals and experts, the goal is to facilitate the Bangladeshi military to become self sufficient in medical aid at all levels.
Given Bangladesh's propensity for natural disasters and their military's role as first-responders, this is a skill set that is especially critical, Crosby said.
Much like what Culp and Pardun did in Exercise Shanti Doot-3.
"The medics will be invaluable to this; they already have the necessary experience and we plan on tapping into that experience as much as we can," Anderson said.
Oregon Guard members bring a unique skill set to the Partnership Program, according to Crosby. They have the maturity and experience to adapt to the dynamic situation of an event, he explained.
"For example, often times, there is great planning that comes with these events, but because of language and cultural issues, when you get here, you find the situation to be different than what you had planned," Crosby said.
"I've already seen this happen to our Guardsmen on multiple occasions and they consistently react and respond in a manner that garners praise from our Bangladeshi partners," he said.
In the end, the success of Shanti Doot-3 will be measured not by what Culp and Pardun did, but by what the Soldiers do when they deploy.
"All we want is to help, give you the tools, to get home safely to your families," Pardun said, speaking to a platoon from Thailand.
The State Partnership Program was established in 1993 by the State Department in cooperation with National Guard Bureau, and was originally started to foster relationships with former Soviet countries, officials said.
The partnership of Oregon and Bangladesh was formally established in 2008 and has resulted in numerous interactions between the Oregon National Guard and respective Bangladeshi institutions. In the month of March, there were five State Partnership events going on in Bangladesh, according to Crosby.