DIVACA, Slovenia - In the tall grass, with mountains providing a backdrop and foxes skittering past, U.S. and Slovenian Soldiers kneeled with their weapons. Training to operate swiftly, they maneuvered together, unloading and reloading magazines to create a clicking sound in unison.
The 220th Military Police Company of the Colorado National Guard cross-trained with Slovenian forces near Divaca, Slovenia June 5, 2019, for protective services training and advanced rifle marksmanship training. They worked on firearms techniques such as assuming a good firing stance and performing tactical reloads.
"It's cool to see how their techniques and tactics compare to ours and how similar they are," said Staff Sgt. Michaela Thomas, a military policewoman with the 220th. "We also each have our own unique bits and pieces we add in."
Thomas was one of the noncommissioned officers giving training alongside members of a Slovenian SWAT company.
"We are getting an opportunity to train with their elite forces," said Thomas.
The 220th also held joint qualification ranges for their Soldiers, Slovenian personnel, and Soldiers from the 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade of the Ohio National Guard.
The 220th is in Slovenia primarily to participate in exercises Immediate Response 19 and Astral Knight 19, providing site security, entry checkpoints, convoy security, and route reconnaissance, conducting 24-hour operations in both Divaca and Koper, Slovenia.
Soldiers of the 220th have escorted convoys for the delivery of equipment as part of Immediate Response 19 and kept sites secure as Soldiers from air defense artillery units simulate the protection of the Port of Koper in Astral Knight 19.
Immediate Response 19 was a multinational exercise designed to improve mission readiness and involved the rapid transportation of equipment around Slovenia, Hungary and the Republic of Croatia. It fed directly into Astral Knight 19, a multinational combined exercise designed to test integrated air and missile defense capabilities.
The marksmanship training with the Slovenians was a separate opportunity from the exercises.
Thomas, who was an active duty military policewoman for seven years before joining the National Guard one year ago, said the training with the Slovenians contributes to well-roundedness for the other missions.
"Our experiences differ, and combining the different things each of us have learned throughout our careers develops the 'ultimate MP' as an end state," she said.
Lt. Jon Gronewold, a platoon leader in the 220th said their role is key in tracking what is going on at the exercise sites at all times and reporting that information. "It's been high tempo," he said.
Gronewold has served 11 years in the National Guard, working as an armor officer for a cavalry squadron in the Nebraska National Guard before moving to the MP unit in Colorado.
He said his favorite part about the training with the Slovenian forces, both in the exercises and in the separate marksmanship training, has been getting to know the personnel, including a Slovenian soldier who shared stories of serving at the time of the Yugoslav Wars.
Gronewold said he enjoys the diversity of being a military policeman and having the opportunity to conduct missions like the one in Slovenia.
"I hope all units get the experience to go overseas," he said. "For some of these Soldiers, this is their first time training outside of the U.S. It brings a different perspective on how to coordinate and operate within a different country's borders."
Spc. Roberto Terrazas, a military policeman with the 220th said he also enjoys the job diversity that comes with being an MP and has no intentions of changing his career path.
In his spare time, Terrazas likes to go to the shooting range as often as possible and said he is always looking for new ways to improve his technique.
"We are learning new things from them, and they're learning new things from us," Terrazes said. "It goes both ways."
Terrazas, who has been in the National Guard for four years, has traveled to Alaska three times for his work and hopes to continue to get more opportunities like the missions in Slovenia.