National Guard Officer Candidates Train with Albanian Partners

By Capt. Kenneth Meisner, 444th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMay 21, 2024

U.S. Army Officer Candidate Brian Luckenbill, New Jersey OCS Class 67, 254th Training Regiment, conducts water crossing familiarization training with Albanian Armed Forces Cadets in Rreth-Greth, Albania, May 16, 2024. New Jersey and New York National Guard Soldiers trained with cadets from the Albanian Military Academy. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Kenneth Meisner)
U.S. Army Officer Candidate Brian Luckenbill, New Jersey OCS Class 67, 254th Training Regiment, conducts water crossing familiarization training with Albanian Armed Forces Cadets in Rreth-Greth, Albania, May 16, 2024. New Jersey and New York National Guard Soldiers trained with cadets from the Albanian Military Academy. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Kenneth Meisner) (Photo Credit: Capt. Kenneth Meisner) VIEW ORIGINAL

RRETH-GRETH, Albania – Imagine traveling thousands of miles to a foreign country to put your leadership skills to the test. This month, the New Jersey and New York National Guard Officer Candidate School (OCS) Cadets did just that, conducting a part of phase two training with the Albanian Armed Forces OCS Cadets May 6-17.

The OCS candidates rallied to Albania to complete several situational tactical exercise lanes, inching closer to becoming U.S. Army Commissioned Officers.

The New Jersey National Guard has trained with the Albanian Armed Forces for over 20 years, completing more than 30 missions just this year, as part of the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

Thirty-seven Albanian Cadets joined 16 officer candidates from New Jersey Class 67 and four candidates from New York Class 69 to complete the STX lanes. The combat-focused tactics included movement to contact, squad attack, ambush, knocking out a bunker and reconnaissance. The OCS cadre responsible for mentoring and training the candidates ranged in expertise from a former U.S. Army Special Forces medic to a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

“This is the second year we have conducted training with the officer candidates from New Jersey and New York, and there has been a lot to learn by integrating the cadets into squads and giving everyone the opportunity to learn about each other and be able to work as a group,” said Albanian Armed Forces Col. Ilirjan Dauti, Dean of Faculty of Security and Defense. “We also have been able to work on our troop leading procedures and having experienced officers from New Jersey and New York has been very beneficial in helping us practice these procedures.”

After completing the required lanes, all candidates participated in water crossing familiarization training using a rope harness in the ancient Shkumbin River. The candidates also went on a staff ride to Berat, a city dating back to the Byzantine Empire.

“The training is established for leadership skills,” Dauti said. “Once you assign a leader for the squad, from that moment on he will show that leadership on planning, preparation and execution. I think it is beneficial to know your responsibilities as a leader because if you plan well, your people will be safe, so the responsibility you have as a leader is very tough.”

The New Jersey and New York officer candidates acquired extensive experience and developed working relationships with their allied partners.

“It was the perfect culminating event involving all the things we learned in a garrison environment, including a lot of the nitty-gritty details of an operations order and being able to quickly produce an order on the ground and execute a mission,” said Officer Candidate Michael Randazzo, OCS Class 67, 2nd Battalion, 254th Regiment.

Randazzo said the American and Albanian Cad worked through the language barrier to communicate orders and guidance.

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