Foreign officer exchange program gives training, cultural experiences to Guardsmen, Reservists
July 3, 2013
For two weeks in June, the Virginia National Guard's 29th Infantry Division at Fort Belvoir has played host to a special guest: Maj. Brett Bader, a member of the British Armed Forces.
Bader, the commander of the British reserve unit 265 Battery, 106 Regiment, Royal Artillery, took part in the Guard's annual mobilization training as part of the Department of Defense Reserve Officer Foreign Exchange Program.
The annual program allows National Guard and Reserve officers to take part in a four-week military exchange program with a member of an allied nation -- two weeks here, two weeks there. It was created so that reserve officers from different countries, who often work together while deployed, could train for mobilization together and improve cross-cultural understanding and relationships off the battlefield.
"It's the joint cooperation," Bader said. "We're going to be working together, and I think it's important for people to have that understanding. It's like a normal business -- when you know somebody in a business, that handshake's already been done, so it makes life a lot easier."
Bader's training partner is Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ralph Lovett, a Guardsman in Operations Company, 29th Infantry Division.
"Typically, they try to pair individuals with similar ranks and similar mission specialties," Lovett said. "We are both artillery … so, similar skill sets."
During their two weeks, Bader joined the 29th Infantry Division's effects cell for training at Fort Belvoir and Fort A.P. Hill.
"I've been part of the effects cell … dealing with lethal and non-lethal effects," Bader said.
As part of the training, Bader helped the unit come up with a mobilization plan and briefed key leaders on it, including Brig. Gen. Charles W. Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division. He also trained in marksmanship at Fort A.P. Hill.
Outside of military training, Bader visited many local historic landmarks, including the White House, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and the battlefields at Yorktown, Manassas, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg.
"It was good to see the artillery -- seeing how speed, surprise, flexibility are going to be quite decisive in the victory," he said.
Bader also visited Jamestown, to see where the first British colonists settled in the U.S. He said seeing history come to life is his favorite part of the program so far.
"When you look at the ships down at Jamestown, you can certainly see the link to the type of architecture that was used in shipping then (in England)," Bader said.
Bader looks forward to showing Lovett around the U.K. during his unit's annual training in July.
"We're looking at him seeing some of our artillery assets … to have a better understanding of the capability the British can actually deliver," Bader said. "We're going to be taking him to the Royal School of Artillery, where we do a lot of our training, getting him on some of the simulators, into our artillery tanks … (and) a potential visit to an artillery airship which does air defense, which is run by the Royal Navy."
"We're going to try to see if we can get him out on the ranges because that's what I did here -- firing your weapons systems -- so that he can appreciate ours as well," he added.
Lovett will also get to see Buckingham Palace, have dinner at the Irish Guards Mess (one of the Foot Guards Regiments of the British Army), and visit the new museum on the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's flagship, in Portsmouth. He'll also get to see some pieces of Royal Artillery history with a trip to Lark Hill, the British field artillery school, and visit with King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, which uses horse teams to pull World War I artillery pieces for ceremonial purposes, like national funerals.
Lovett said he is excited to see British forces train at home for the first time.
"I've served in naval operations and coalitions in the past, and it's an interesting opportunity to see those units that I've served with in places like Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar now in their home. I've seen them deployed; now it will be interesting to see how they train," he said.
He said the exchange program is an ideal way to build connections between allied forces.
"If you already have a familiarity with nations and individual Soldiers and officers that you are potentially going to be deployed with in the future, it makes that cooperation that much easier," Lovett said.
The Reserve Officer Foreign Exchange Program began in 1985 with a memorandum of understanding between the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs) and the German Ministry of Defense. The U.K. Ministry of Defense joined in 1989.
For more information, visit http://ra.defense.gov/programs/rtm/overview.html.