CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Effective work environments require trust and respect to operate efficiently, and the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program aims to do exactly that: put U.S. Soldiers and Airmen into working environments with their foreign counterparts to build lasting relationships and operational readiness.
In that regard, the Slovenian Armed Forces hosted Colorado Guardsmen to demonstrate medevac practices and exchange experience and information about casualty transport June 9-12.
Army Maj. Bryan Munsch, executive officer for Company G, 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion, participated in the event by observing Slovene medevac demonstrations and briefing them about U.S. methods.
Munsch said the SAF has a lot of great equipment and well-trained personnel.
“They do things a little differently, more long-haul, critical care patient transport, whereas our version is based on quickness,” he said. “The Colorado National Guard focuses more on going from point of injury to a battalion aide station.”
They are all highly skilled medical professionals – more skilled than paramedics, Munsch said, which really impressed him about their operations.
“Any time you can put a higher level of care at the point of injury the more likely the patient will survive,” he said.
Another difference Munsch noted is that the Slovene medical professionals are not specifically trained about aircraft, the way U.S. Army medics are.
Sgt. 1st Class Eric Williams, flight medical specialist with Company G, 2-135 GSAB, also attended the exercise and gave briefs about Colorado National Guard’s best practices for casualty transport.
“It was very good to find out how they work and see their equipment,” he said. He said this information helped him focus his demonstrations.
The aim of the event was to get troops working together and prepared for real-world missions. Slovenia has participated in six deployments to Afghanistan with their Colorado National Guard partners. The structure of the Guard and its capabilities are applicable to Slovenia’s military as the country transforms its force in terms of size and capabilities.
Army Lt. Col. Todd Scattini, defense and Army attaché at the American Embassy in Ljublijana, Slovenia, said he’s impressed with the results he’s seen from the program.
Scattini said he sees Slovenia as a success story, and credits the State Partnership Program – specifically Colorado and Slovenia’s more than 20-year partnership – as a great tool in accomplishing a strong alliance between Slovenia and the U.S., adding that the Colorado National Guard is a force multiplier for both militaries.
“Continuity is a must,” Scattini said. “Without it, capabilities would decrease and relationships would atrophy without the program.”
Building these relationships has long lasting effects.
“When we become less foreign to each other, we become more effective,” said Air Force Maj. Matthew Manning, chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
“I don’t think anyone ever realized at its inception how valuable the program would turn out to be,” Manning said. “Those (service members) who joined the SAF in 1999 at 18 years old have now spent their entire careers working with Americans and attending U.S. schools. They stay in contact with the people they met and see them again at military exercises.”
The State Partnership Program’s continued success provides relationship and cooperation building with partner nations for very little cost. The number of co-deployments between states and their partner countries to Afghanistan and Iraq is a testament to the program’s value; most coalition forces in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn come from SPP partnerships. SPP is a critical tool for interagency and comprehensive joint engagements, according to the U.S. European Command website.
“It’s better to train together in peacetime than to have to meet everyone when we’re already at war,” said 1st Lt. Christian Morat, commander, Medical Company East, Slovenian Armed Forces, and a participant in the medevac event. “That’s no time to make mistakes. Then it’s too late.”