PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
Story by Capt. Robert Taylor
Idaho Army National Guard
Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen participated in a subject-matter expert exchange Sept. 16–20 at the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations center with members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
The mission was part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program and included a team of four Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers and two 124th Fighter Wing Airmen. Subject-matter expert exchanges facilitate the exchange of ideas, capabilities, training and experience between a host country and a state’s National Guard.
“These exchanges provide a great opportunity for our Idaho Guardsmen to not only train along side Cambodian Soldiers, but to also learn and grow, both personally and professionally,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho.
Garshak and a small team of Idaho National Guardsmen also spent the week in Cambodia meeting with embassy officials and discussing ways to better collaborate across issues of defense cooperation.
Soldiers and Airmen spent the week training with members of Cambodia’s peacekeeping directorate who are preparing to deploy to several countries as part of the National Center for Peacekeeping, Mines, and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance program. More than 70 NPMEC Soldiers made up three groups consisting of engineer, medical and leadership engagements.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goodman. “Their ingenuity is through the roof.”
Throughout the week, Goodman and Lt. Col. Brandon Pieper, explored basic first aid and CPR techniques with NPMEC Soldiers.
Pieper, a traditional Guardsman and dentist from Boise, Idaho, said he volunteered to participate in the exchange to get outside of his comfort zone of providing dental exams during drill weekend. In addition, he wanted to work with members of the Idaho Army National Guard.
He said the experience gave him a similar perspective to deploying with the Army and having to form a team with people he doesn’t normally work with.
Engineer Soldiers from both armies worked together to build a 30-foot beam bridge over a creek to increase their shared understanding of bridging concepts. The bridge will allow future students at the PKO to access the facility’s helicopter pad faster.
“Working with the NPMEC Soldiers left me energized each day with their enthusiasm of learning,” said Maj. Steve Keeton, an engineer officer.
Soldiers also reviewed and practiced troop leading procedures, land navigation and basic leadership skills together.
The exchange occurred during the Cambodia’s Pchum Ben, a 15-day religious festival, which gave Soldiers and Airmen the chance to visit a nearby temple and experience the country’s culture firsthand. Idaho and Cambodia have participated in the State Partnership Program since 2009. Soldiers and Airmen from the Idaho National Guard conduct approximately four subject-matter expert exchanges in Cambodia each year.