NEWS | Oct. 12, 2016

Alaska National Guard teams up with Mongolian forces for Disaster Management Leadership Seminar

By Staff Sgt. Balinda O'Neal Dresel Alaska National Guard

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia — A five-member team from the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron participated in a Disaster Management Leadership Seminar in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Sept. 19-23.

The Mongolia National Emergency Management Agency hosted the first of its kind exchange, partnering with service members from the AKANG's 212th RQS, U.S. Army's 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), 5th Military Information Support Battalion, U.S. Air Force's 320th Special Tactics Squadron and Special Operations Command, Pacific, in a leadership seminar.

"This is the first that I am aware of where we have actually gone in at an operational level and shared subject matter expertise for the operator type," explained Tech Sgt. Cody Inman, a pararescuemen with the 212th RSQ. "[The seminar] consists of classroom subject matter expert sharing of information, hands on training – going both ways between the National Emergency Management Agency and the members of the Alaska National Guard – hands on extrication that culminates with a field training exercise where we put all the skills that we've learned from each other together in an extrication and mass casualty incident."

The Guard members attended the engagement in Mongolia as part of the National Guard State Partnership program. The program was implemented to couple foreign democracies with states to develop unique security partnerships that ensure U.S. strategic access and a sustained presence in countries worldwide.

"We are here in support of the Alaska State Partnership Program and the relationship between the Alaska National Guard and Mongolia's National Emergency Management Agency, Special Rescue Unit, and Law Enforcement University," explained Inman, who most recently participated in exercise Gobi Wolf, a civil-military disaster preparedness and response initiative, this past April.

Since its paring in 2003, Guard members have partnered with Mongolia in several exercises and exchanges including Gobi Wolf, multinational peacekeeping exercise Khaan Quest – both hosted by Mongolia – and Alaska Shield, a state sponsored Homeland Security exercise, hosted by Alaska. U.S. personnel have deployed as advisors with the Mongolians to Iraq since 2004 and Afghanistan since 2009.

With almost 15 years of U.S. operations combating international terrorism, pararescue has gained a lot of invaluable experience in theaters across the globe.

"We are happy to share this experience with the National Emergency Management Agency and Special Rescue Unit of Mongolia," said Inman. "These guys are an extremely professional and competent rescue team and in the end we both come away better at our jobs by sharing knowledge on our various skill sets."

The engagement focused on discussion forums and hands-on engagement in disaster response management, human rights, displaced persons, incident command system, mass casualty incident management, crisis communication and vehicle extrication. Both countries had the opportunity to share knowledge and demonstrate best practices.

"[U.S. participants] are taking tons of experience, tips and techniques – especially from the NEMA portion [of the seminar] – and they plan on bringing that back with them," said Maj. Saong You, 97th CA BN's Theater Civil-Military Support Element commander. "When they go to other host nations, they can share that information they get from this training."

"Our team has learned a ton about some of the specialized rescue equipment these guys approach extrication with," explained Inman. "Their mind set when it comes to mass casualty incidents, search and recovery operations is very, very similar. I would say that we are 99 percent on the same page and for that one percent we are able to discuss why it works for them, how it could possibly work for us and everybody comes away better at the mission."

Both countries are looking forward to future exchanges and the opportunity to share expertise and practice their teaching skills, and according to Inman and You, both sides benefit from the relationship.

"I see a long term and beneficial relationship between the country of Mongolia and the state of Alaska with regard to our capabilities," added Inman. "I feel like we have a lot to offer them, and they have a lot to offer us. So I look forward to building on this relationship and maintaining a continuity here."

"They have already hit me up for follow-on training, as well as the subject matter experts," said You, with regards to U.S. and Mongolian agencies. "I hope to come back here again and participate in future subject matter expert exchanges."

This year, Alaska and Mongolia completed 18 exchanges ranging from air and cold weather operations to senior leader engagements. They are scheduled to participate in Gobi Wolf and Khaan Quest next year.