By Capt. Robert TaylorJune 2, 2017
BOISE, Idaho - Soldiers from the Idaho Army National Guard are currently training in four countries and will deploy to train in eight others between now and the end of summer. None of these countries include Afghanistan or Iraq. Citizen-Soldiers rely on their civilian and military skill sets to train and work with soldiers in other countries.
Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers are currently training in Canada, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Romania and will soon deploy to Bangladesh, Germany, Nepal, Tanzania, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea and Morocco.
"Soldiers that volunteer for these missions have the opportunity to utilize their Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) with our allies and partners," said Lt. Col. Scott Sheridan, director of operations for the Idaho Army National Guard. "Anytime you utilize your MOS, you increase your aptitude as well as increase the interoperability with the host nation's Soldiers and our allies and partners."
As Citizen-Soldiers, Idaho Guardsmen bring more than just their military skill set to these missions.
"Guard Soldiers typically spend one weekend a month and a few weeks at drill," said Maj. Jon Frye, an Idaho Army National Guard operations officer. "The rest of the time they are at their civilian employment. They bring these civilian skills and perspectives to their Army job."
Frye said these skills and perspectives helps Soldiers connect with their counterparts prior to the start of and during any training opportunities.
"It helps build bridges when they are first getting to know each other, 'oh, we're not so different,'" Frye said. "It helps them find common ground between them."
Soldiers volunteer to go on these deployments, which are typically in addition to the Soldiers' annual training requirements and in locations most people wouldn't otherwise travel. Deployments typically last between five to 21 days and often focus on peacekeeping missions.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew J. Alandt traveled to Cambodia last July as part of a Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency mission. The CULP program teaches Army ROTC cadets about foreign cultures around the world.
"I enjoyed my trip to Cambodia," Alandt said. "It was a great opportunity to travel the world while helping mold future Army officers into leaders. It's a mixture of travel and cultural exchange and teaching other countries' military the english language and culture."
Alandt and a small team will travel to Nepal in June with ROTC cadets to conduct a similar three-week mission. During the first week, the group will be helping to rebuild a housing structure; the second week interacting with Nepal's military; and the last week visiting cultural sites in the South Asian country.
Missions around the world like these allow the Idaho Army National Guard to have a global impact in both the State Department and the Department of Defense efforts. Idaho Soldiers have trained under eight of the military's nine geographic combatants.
"Idaho is known as a respectable, capable and willing partner to support different combatant commands by providing extremely capable and motivated Soldiers to complete these missions," Sheridan said.
Sheridan said his staff will continue to seek opportunities for Idaho Soldiers to train in Overseas Deployment Missions (ODT). He encourages Soldiers who are interested in participating in future missions to start acquiring a "brown cover" passport and completing other overseas deployment requirements. A brown cover passport is used for official government travel.