Angkor Sentinel 12   HOMEPAGE
Idaho Army National Guard partners with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces
By Staff Sgt. April Davis

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Royal Cambodian Armed Forces survey underneath a bridge during the Engineer Subject Matter Exchange with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, March 20
KAMPONGSEU PROVINCE, Cambodia Soldiers of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, Idaho Army National Guard, traveled to the Peacekeeping Operations School in Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia to participate in the Angkor Sentinel 2012 exercise March 13-23.

Angkor Sentinel is an annual bilateral military exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to further strengthen military-to-military relationships and improve peacekeeping capabilities. This year marked the third iteration of the Angkor Sentinel exercise.

Lieutenant General Sem Sovanny, Director-General of the National Center for Peacekeeping Force, Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (NPMEC), welcomed the 116th and U.S. Army Pacific participants as he declared the opening of Angkor Sentinel 2012 in a ceremony, March 13.

"This exercise has mirrored a better and deeper relationship, friendship, and cooperation between Cambodia and the United States," he said. "It focuses on exchanging knowledge, respecting, loving, and unifying among other forces regardless of who we are, our languages, religions, cultures and traditions and with a purpose to establish a sense of unity and good cooperation among one another."

Nearly 500 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, including 35 Gendarmerie, and nearly 85 U.S. military, including 60 from the Idaho Army National Guard worked cooperatively together, exchanging tactics, techniques and sharing expertise.

The exercise featured several events including battalion-level Staff and Command Post Exercises focused on peacekeeping operations, stability operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster response. It also encompassed a Medical First Responder course, a Counter-Improvised Explosive Device exercise, Engineer Subject Matter Expert Exchange, and a Medical Civic Action Program.

The Staff Exercise and Command Post Exercise consisted of in-depth academics for battalion headquarters staff in managing peacekeeping operations and fine-tuning staff processes. A combined U.S. and RCAF headquarters was formed based on United Nations structure. Officers from three subordinate battalions, including two RCAF battalions and northern Idaho's 145th Brigade Support Battalion, responded to simulated scenarios to resolve complex security missions and synchronize humanitarian efforts.

"The intent of this exercise was to enhance both RCAF and U.S. staff officer abilities to function in a UN environment," said Col. Don Blunck, brigade commander of the 116th CBCT. "I think we met that intent and we were able to learn from the Cambodians as much as we were able to enhance our own staff officer abilities."

Major Alex Shaffer, of the 116th CBCT, used his previous peacekeeping experience in Bosnia as he worked in the combined 116th and RCAF headquarters element during the Staff and Command Post Exercises. He said the exercise helped increase inter-operability between forces of different nations.

"We are working through the Military Decision Making Process together with the RCAF, learning to manage humanitarian resources and operate simultaneously in a simulated peacekeeping environment," said Shaffer. "Learning about cultural differences and working through the language barrier is beneficial to our 116th staff because you can't simulate those things when training at home."

NPMEC used the experience to prepare for potential United Nations missions.

"This exercise will help prepare us for future missions with the UN," said Lt. Col. Ra Phirun, 225th Battalion commander. "This training is beneficial not only to us but to the U.S. also because we all learn something new every day."

Soldiers of Idaho's 145th BSB, 116th CBCT, conducted two Medical First Responder courses with RCAF personnel. The first course was held at the Gendarmerie military police headquarters in Kampot Province and included nearly 40 participants. The second course was held at the Peacekeeping Operations School in Kampong Speu Province and included nearly 25 participants from NPMEC.

Soldiers accustomed to Combat Life-Saver classes had to adjust their techniques to meet the situations that the Cambodian military police face on a daily basis. With a lack of emergency medical teams, the Gendarmerie is relied upon to handle emergency situations.

"We are practicing emergency medical procedures and first aid," said Sgt. Ryan Lohmiller, a medic with the 145th BSB, 116th CBCT. "This has been a great opportunity to learn a new culture that I've never seen before. I think we've all learned something new from this experience."

The Idaho Soldiers worked together with the Cambodian forces to formulate techniques on how to improvise treatment with limited medical supplies and equipment.

"It's been a challenge to think outside the box, using whatever is on hand to make splints and dressings," said Pfc. Georgia Goodwin.

Soldiers from the 130th Engineer Brigade and the Asia-Pacific C-IED Center facilitated Situational Training Exercises focused on identifying and responding to IED's in order to preserve lives and prevent disruption to military operations. Two RCAF brigades preparing for upcoming UN missions participated in the exercise, which consisted of academics, rehearsals and soldier evaluations.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with RCAF engineers to exchange knowledge on construction, building assessments, bridge assessments, and Global Positioning Systems, as well as an equipment demonstration.

"The RCAF engineers have done an outstanding job, they are eager to learn and a pleasure to work with," said Capt. Chuck Koppernolle, of USACE.

Angkor Sentinel 2012 was not all work and no play. RCAF and U.S. Soldiers challenged each other in games of soccer and volleyball during the evenings. Many 116th soldiers took the time to learn about Cambodia's history, culture and even learned to speak some of the Khmer language.

Major Scott Sheridan, of the 116th CBCT, bonded with his RCAF counterparts as he in the 225th Battalion throughout the exercise. He commended their work ethic and motivation.

"Working with the Cambodians has been incredible," said Sheridan. "I've made some life-long friendships here; it's been an unforgettable experience."