Soldiers Gain Perspective Through Partnership Program
By Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa., June 12, 2014 Scattered throughout the dense woods and rocky hills of the National Guard training center here, infantry soldiers -- with cammo faces and full "battle rattle" -- from Company C, 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment, began their four-day annual field training exercise June 9.
Army 2nd Lt. Abram Gordon, right, during a field training exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., June 9, 2014. The unit of the Maryland Army National Guard trains alongside counterparts from Bosnia-Herzegovina's military. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Embedded amongst the Maryland Army National Guard soldiers are members of the armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, made possible through the state partnership that the Maryland National Guard has with the Balkan nation.
"It's been great having them attached to our company," said Army 1st Lt. David Brown, acting company commander, Company C 1st Bn., 175th Inf. Reg. "They have been fully integrated into the company ... and they have been shadowing their counterparts here as well.
"We're also incorporating them into our platoons and squads as we conduct our field training exercise," Brown continued, "which is a four day, three night exercise."
Company C’s first sergeant, Army 1st Sgt. Christopher Timson, says the exercise includes training in tactical platoon movements, neutralizing mock high-value targets, and acquiring assets of value.
"The counterparts of ours from Bosnia-Herzegovina have been instrumental in helping our leaders work on operation orders and lead the platoons throughout the training," Timson said.
Brown said he felt that the partnership Maryland has with Bosnia-Herzegovina was a great opportunity for his soldiers to learn how other military forces operate.
"Despite the diversity we have in the U.S., we don't always get to interact with people from another country," he said, "so I think it's been a great opportunity for our guys ... because the way the Bosnians operate is not much different and it's good to see that, around the world, a lot of the basic infantry skills are similar."
Brown added, "I personally think that the more interactions we can get with other countries' soldiers, the more it opens up our soldiers' minds to the outside world.”
One unique interaction these infantry soldiers had was with Lt. Kristijan Pantic, a combat veteran infantry officer from the AFBiH, who shadowed Army 2nd Lt. Abram Gordon, rifle platoon leader with Company C, 1-175th.
"It was interesting when we heard that there would be a female infantry officer shadowing our platoon, and after interacting with her it has been a lot more than I expected," Gordon said.
"I've learned a lot from her -- about tactics and about being a leader," he added. "She is an infantry officer and she is leading soldiers, regardless of gender."
In addition to learning new perspectives on how Pantic leads a platoon, Gordon said, he has also learned how Bosnia-Herzegovina infantry soldiers operated in Afghanistan.
"She's given me some great tactical advice on squad tactics," he said. "She helps critique my movements and offers ways to do things better, and it all made sense. She is very competent in her skill set and is very capable in leading soldiers, and that's all that matters in a leader."
Gordon said Pantic was one of the first female soldiers in her country to join the infantry.
"She's adapted to her role as an infantry officer very well, and she has shown that she is more than capable of her role as an infantry officer," he said.
Gordon said he's always been an advocate of the diverse learning opportunities gained through exchanges within the SPP.
The "SPP allows officers and [noncommissioned officers] from each partnership to learn different skills and then adapt them to meet changing needs and requirements," Gordon said.
Brown and Timson agreed.
"I think the State Partnership Program is a strength of the Guard, and I think it's great being able to work with countries from around the world on a regular basis," Brown said.