MELGAR, Colombia - As an expansion of the State Partnership Program, South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers joined members of the Colombian army to exchange knowledge on maintenance techniques during a month-long engagement in Colombia in June 2014.
Fifteen Soldiers from the 742nd Support Maintenance Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, met with Colombian Army maintenance personnel to work on various pieces of equipment that included weapons systems, night vision goggles and vehicles. This was the second meeting between the team partners following their engagement last fall.
"This visit was a bit different for our Soldiers," said Capt. Justin Montgomery, commander of the 742nd SMC. "We now have a better understanding of the fight our Colombian partners are still engaged in and how critical their maintenance program is to sustain their mission. As soon as items are repaired, they go right back to the front lines."
Montgomery said his team always understood the value and importance of using training manuals and maintenance standard operating procedures, but the Colombians have to not only implement these systems, but ensure everything that comes for repair is ready to be used in combat.
"When our Soldiers deploy, we are sent overseas and face the enemy far from home," Montgomery said. "The Colombians are in this fight in their own country and that is very humbling."
Coordinating these efforts was Maj. Dave King, SPP director for the SCNG, who ensured the partners were meeting the strategic objectives of the Combatant Commander aligned with the goals of the Colombian military.
According to King, maintenance is a key skill the South Carolina National Guard members can provide, primarily because their expertise and use of equipment mirrors that of the Colombian military.
"The equipment used by the Colombian Army is very similar to the U.S. Army," King said. "The unique capabilities our Soldiers bring are different approaches to maintenance and techniques that the Colombians may not be familiar with. We hope to assist the Colombians with establishing a maintenance culture."
The South Carolina National Guard has worked with Colombia since 2012 through the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. The State Partnership Program (SPP) is a United States Department of Defense program managed by the National Guard that links U.S. states with partner countries around the world for the purpose of supporting the security cooperation objectives of the geographic Combatant Commands.
Montgomery said this mission in Colombia has been a unique opportunity for his Soldiers, by using their skills in an environment different from what they do in the maintenance shops back in South Carolina and seeing the value of helping another country.
"Colombian soldiers are among the best in the world," said Montgomery. "They've shared their skills training with others in the region and we're pleased to be working with them on this maintenance program."