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NEWS | May 19, 2010

Minnesota, Ohio Guard prepare to deploy with partners

By Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Walker JMRC Public Affairs

HOHENFELS, Germany - In preparation for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan with Hungarian Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Timothy Harmon has given himself a crash course in the language.

Harmon and fellow Guard members recently completed Operational Mentor and Liaison Team training with their NATO counterparts at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. The Minnesota National Guard also completed OMLT training with troops from Croatia, which is the country they are paired with in the National Guard State Partnership Program.

Harmon, a member of the Ohio National Guard, calculates that he knows more than 50 Hungarian words and has reached the point where he can engage in short, polite conversations in the language with the Hungarian soldiers that he will serve with in Afghanistan.

"I just want to be able to be more effective communicating with those guys," Harmon said.

In all, 13 countries from around the world participated in OMLT training at JMRC. The training exercise included military personnel from the United Kingdom, Poland, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Romania, France, Hungary, Norway, Croatia, Slovakia, Afghanistan and the United States.

The training exercise gave NATO countries' troops a chance to experience mentoring, coaching and teaching actual Afghan National Army soldiers. At the same time, 65 ANA soldiers here got a chance to work with troops from other countries who will be part of counter insurgency operations in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, the OMLTs will coach, teach and mentor Afghan soldiers to take a leading role in defending their nation.

The upcoming deployment will be Harmon's first to Afghanistan, although he has served a tour of duty in Iraq. It also will be the first time he will train, work and live with troops from another country in a combat zone.

The two weeks Harmon spent with Hungarians at JMRC along with the four months with them in Hungary has allowed him, not only to learn a new language, but it also has allowed him time to get to know his Hungarian comrades.

During the OMLT training, Harmon was astonished by the Hungarian soldiers' work ethic and eagerness to learn.

At the end of most days, the National Guardsmen knew where to find the Hungarian soldiers -- outside the barracks in the grass continuing weapons training or practicing casualty care.

"They are adamant about learning about the different techniques and methods we use in the U.S. military," Harmon said. "It makes our jobs a lot easier and instills confidence in us."

1st Lt. Josef Tulipan of Hungarian Defense Forces said working with the U.S. troops at JMRC was a mutually beneficial learning experience. Most importantly, it gave Hungarian soldiers insight into how American's react in particular combat situations, he said.

"We learned how the U.S. Soldiers think," Tulipan said.

Lt. Phillip Patti of the Ohio National Guard said training with the Hungarians here at JMRC gave troops from both countries a chance to complete critical hands-on training using equipment, aids and other assets that weren't available elsewhere.

"It was a good time to get [the Hungarians] in the driver's seat of a Humvee and behind a turret," Patti said.

Like their Ohio counterparts, Minnesota National Guardsmen also completed combined OMLT training with Croatian troops at JMRC. Throughout their training, they also had the opportunity to train with the ANA troops.

Maj. Baer David of the Minnesota National Guard said the upcoming mission in Afghanistan will require his Soldiers and the Croatian troops to work together. Both vehicle and squad crews will be a mix of Croatian and American Soldiers.

Training time together at JMRC was critical in ironing out any problems that could hamper the troops from acting as a unified team.

"It's one team one fight," Baer said. "We have to act as one unit."