By Eric Durr, New York State Division of Military and Naval AffairsNovember 29, 2010
POTSCHEFSTROOM, South Africa, Nov 22, 2010 -- Five New York Army National Guard Soldiers traveled to Potschefstroom Military Base, South Africa, to participate in the South African National Military Skills Competition, November 8-13, 2010.
The Soldiers, all members of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry headquartered in Gloversville, New York, represented the United States at the annual South African event, known as "Milcomp." They placed fifth out of 22 teams.
The event combined athletic ability with basic military skills over a three-day period.
"The great thing about it was we were able to do a military exchange program with the South African Army and see how the South Africans operate and see similarities between Soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class Troy Mechanick, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the team.
Accompanying Mechanick were Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Orabona, Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Dorvee, Sgt. David Hansen and Pvt. 1st Class Michael Ellsworth.
The South African trip was the first time out of the United States for Ellsworth, who has not yet deployed on a mission. The other Soldiers are all veterans of contingency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
New York National Guardsmen regularly visit South Africa as part of the Guard's State Partnership Program, which pairs a state's National Guard with a developing nation's military. New York has partnered with the South Africa National Defense Force since 2005.
After arriving in the South African summer from a cool fall in upstate New York, the Soldiers had a day to practice before launching into the competition, which involved shooting, negotiating obstacles, and running.
"It was ninety degrees at 9 (a.m.)," Mechanick said.
The competition included target shooting, a water obstacle course, grenade throwing, a land obstacle course, and an eight-kilometer run.
There was also time for the Soldiers to get to know their hosts better. The Americans attended a South African barbecue, known as a braai with some veteran South African NCOs.
"A Soldier is a Soldier everywhere," Mechanick said. The trip was a great chance to "represent the United States and New York State and to let them see what a typical United States Soldier is like," he added.