HARTFORD, Conn. – Smiles, laughter and jokes filled a room at the Hartford Armory as seven members of the 192nd Engineer Battalion met with State Partnership Program Director Maj. Nick Raphael to complete a report after action for their recent trip to Uruguay.
The team conducted counter-IED (improvised explosive device) training with the Uruguayan military in Montevideo, Uruguay, July 15-25, 2022, as part of a bilateral exchange between the two partners.
“It was great to see this side of the Guard,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Carrasquillo, a communications specialist assigned to the 192nd. “We are not just the Connecticut National Guard. When we were there, we represented the United States, we represented the American military, we fulfilled a more important role. We were doing something much bigger than ourselves. We were literally fostering a friendship with another nation, a partner nation, to show them that we care about them, they care about us. We are the same, we have many similarities.
The group worked with Uruguayan military instructors and a diverse rank structure of more than 30 Uruguayan soldiers preparing to deploy to Africa and Syria in support of United Nations peacekeeping missions. The soldiers were mostly NCOs and junior officers, representing artillery, infantry, divers, K-9 handlers, engineers, and armor specialties, with the goal of training trainers .
Defining the learning conditions from the start was essential for the master sergeant. Ernesto Rios-Soto, NCO in charge of the team, who said during the introduction that they were there to collectively exchange information and learn from each other’s experiences, saying “we are here to show you a way of doing things, not the way of doing things, and it’s going to be done collectively, not we’re telling you. We will learn from you as much as you learn from us. It is group work and we will learn together.
The first two days of the exchange were for classroom instruction and the last three days were practice lanes (practical exercises) in the field. The class was split into two teams who maneuvered along a two-mile path, reacting to IEDs and ambushes along the way, following an iterative series of increasingly difficult challenges that fit into the mission overall theory.
“We shared our experiences and knowledge on IED placement, what to watch for, indicators, the five Cs (verify, confirm, erase, loop and control),” said Sgt. Ismael Gutierrez, a combat engineer and heavy equipment operator assigned to the 250th Engineer Company. “You find him, so what? You have to erase it and go through the whole process of what to do about the IED once it is found. The first day we snailed it, the second day we did a crawl, a mini-walk, then the last day – a full send.
The group from the 192nd Engineers brought a lot of real-life experience to the exchange.
“I joined in 2009 and was on active duty on two combat deployments with my Fort Drum-based unit,” Gutierrez said. “We were training for sapper school, so they made sure I knew a lot about explosives, demos (calculations) and all that. On my second deployment, we cleared routes, I got therefore familiar with high explosives.”
Uruguay is the largest contributor per capita to UN peacekeeping operations, so the exchange had tangible benefits that could save lives.
“It was a mix of experience levels. Most of them didn’t know anything about countering IEDs, it was like a totally new topic for them,” Rios-Soto said. “They do peacekeeping operations all the time and they’ve never really been exposed to this type of threat in the places they used to go, like Congo. Now that they are in Syria, the threat (from IEDs) is more real when they do their patrols. So I went back a bit and explained our [tactics, techniques, and procedures], about how we found this in 2003 and how we learned this way, unfortunately from experience, and we want to share this with you. I told our team that you will learn by teaching and I know we save lives. I’ve gathered a lot from last year’s exchange experience and really put my heart into this thing and a lot of hard work.
Rios-Soto continued, “There was a guy on the daily (after action review) and he said, ‘I want to be honest with you, when they told me to go do some IED training, I don’t didn’t want to go, I didn’t know what it was or why I needed it, but now I don’t want to stop. I’m so happy to be here. We never stopped working, even when we were away, we planned for the next day. In the field, we were up at 6 a.m., then we were doing day and night operations, so by the time we got back it was 10 or 11 p.m. »
When asked what Guard Soldiers and Airmen should know about the Uruguay-Connecticut State Partnership Program, Rios-Soto emphatically said, “This is a work trip. . I want to break the stigma that going to Uruguay for State Partnership Program missions is a vacation. You’re having a great time, but it’s more work than we normally do during annual training. The participants were hungry for knowledge, and they always wanted more, more, more, so we constantly made ourselves available to them during each training phase and during the little downtimes we had. We had a great time and enjoyed the culture, they treated us really well, but it’s work.
Bilateral exchanges take many different forms and virtual engagements during the COVID-19 pandemic have been important, but face-to-face interaction is more effective. The State Partnership Program has welcomed the return to in-person events that can address more substantive topics such as countering IEDs.
“For me, it’s really important,” Rios-Soto said. “It’s bigger than me, or our battalion, or Connecticut. It is an international mission, I am very proud to do this mission and I will do it anytime, as many times as possible, because I feel like it makes a difference.
The reason for the smiles, jokes and laughter is clear now – the guiding principle for each of the team members who traveled to Uruguay was a sense of pride and purpose in something they believe makes the difference.
|Date posted:||08.02.2022 16:10|
This work, Anti-IED training with the Uruguayan militaryby MAJ David Pytlikidentified by DVDmust follow the restrictions listed at https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.