MUDUBUGU, Burundi (May 14, 2012) -- It was the first time U.S. Army Sgt. Idalissa Hernandez set foot into a Burundi national defense forces training center. For the soldiers she helped mentor there, it was the first time a female Soldier came to share best practices with them.
Hernandez and Staff Sgt. Michael Easdon, Task Force Raptor, 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, Texas National Guard, were invited by the Burundi Peoples National Defense Forces to participate in a Peace Support Operations Soldier Skills Field Training course held here from April 9 to May 11, 2012.
"When I first was asked to go up in front of the group to share what I knew, I was nervous and didn't know how they would receive me as a female," said Hernandez, squad leader, 702nd Military Police Company, Task Force Raptor. "Once they realized that I knew what I was talking about, they quickly accepted me as a mentor and a Soldier, regardless."
Hernandez is a military police instructor at the Texas National Guard Regional Training Institute, back home at Camp Swift, near Bastrop Texas. She noticed many similarities between mentoring U.S. and Burundi Soldiers.
"When U.S. Soldiers begin the course back home, they are always interested in the 'what if?' questions," Hernandez said. "'What if this, what if that?' I have to keep reminding them that these are just the basics. It was the same here with the Burundi soldiers."
Hernandez and Easdon exchanged best practices, covering the basics of base defense, military operations in urban terrain, and reflexive fire with the Burundi soldiers.
"We shared our experience concerning personnel and vehicle searches, room clearing, and primary marksmanship instruction," said Easdon, squad leader, 702nd Military Police Company, Task Force Raptor. "It was interesting to see how fast they progressed from the first day to the final training exercise."
The Burundi soldier's success was due in part to fellow soldiers taking charge and helping out, Easdon noted.
"Since we only had one interpreter, it was very helpful when Burundi soldiers would help translate for us," Easdon said. "There was one student in particular that really stood out. She was only one of two female soldiers there. She took charge and led her team, making corrections and reminding fellow soldiers of the instruction given in class when it was time for practical exercises."
The female Burundi soldier, known as Mimi to the U.S. Soldiers, was an inspiration to Hernandez.
"I was drawn to Mimi right away, because she was the one of the only females in the class," Hernandez said. "Her leadership and confidence as a soldier in turn gave me the confidence I needed as a U.S. female Soldier to further help mentor the Burundi National Defense Forces."