NEWS | Oct. 2, 2015

State partners Indiana and Slovakia continue relationship with exchange of troops

By Sgt. 1st Class Lasima Packett Indiana National Guard

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana and Slovakia continued their longstanding military and enduring strategic partnership as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership program.

In September, approximately 120 Hoosier Guard members traveled to Military Training Area Lešť in Slovakia to participate in Slovak Shield that helped contribute to NATO’s European Reassurance Initiative. In return more than 70 Slovakian soldiers arrived here in Indiana.

Slovak Shield 2015 was a multinational training exercise, which included nearly 4,000 participants from the Czech Army, Polish Armed Forces, Hungarian Defense Forces, Indiana National Guard, as well as the Ministry of Defense-Crisis Department and the Ministry of Interior of Slovak Republic. Indiana Guard members operated together with them to conduct battle task and combat operations.

The exercise allowed for the Slovak Armed Forces to work with allied forces while analyzing their capabilities and level of readiness to respond to emerging threats that U.S. Army Europe anticipates for the region.

“European Command wants to see a more persistence presence, and they have identified 13 countries they want to have a higher visibility in and Slovakia is one of them,” said Maj. James Claghorn, the Indiana National Guard’s State Partnership Program director.

The Slovak Soldiers who came to Indiana conducted familiarization operations throughout the state. They were matched up with Guardsmen who shared the same skill sets. The Soldiers were then split into smaller groups according to those military specialties where they could spent time conducting familiarization with their counterparts, with the overall goal of attaining interoperability during multinational operations.

Slovakian Air Force mechanics traveled to Shelbyville, Indiana, and they saw the 38th Combat Aviation Brigades UH-60s, very much like what their military is expecting to receive in the near future. While in Evansville, Indiana, the troops spent time becoming acquainted with M119 and M777 howitzers.

The Slovakian medics were enthusiastic about putting their skills to the test while under pressure. They were faced with the challenge of finding their patients and treating them in a dark and smoke-filled room during a simulated exercise at the Medical Simulation Training Center at Camp Atterbury.

“They are very engaged and interested in what’s going on,” said Maj. Harmonie Foster, commander of 113th Company C Medical Support. “It’s very interesting and enlightening to know that there are a lot of similarities and differences between the two cultures and operations.”

Most of the other Soldiers spent their days and nights on various Camp Atterbury ranges. They participated in several events from grenade throwing, M4 and AT-4 firing, to setting up explosives for heavy demolition exercises.

“We had the chance to work with C-4, which we don’t use in Slovakia,” said 1st Lt. Lubomir Muran, deputy commander of a Slovak Armed Forces engineer company.

Muran also said that it has been a great opportunity to see how Americans work. He said Slovaks may have experience with some of the equipment, but he said they were excited to see the way American service members work.

Indiana support came from several units within the Indiana National Guard’s enhance emergency response team, the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 113th Air Support Operation Squadron.

The Indiana National Guard has partnered with the Slovak Armed Forces since 1994.