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Multinational partners train in 'Khaan Quest'

August 20, 2012

By Sgt. Edward Eagerton

FIVE HILLS TRAINING AREA, Mongolia (Aug. 18, 2012) - A conglomeration of U.S., Mongolian, and various international forces took part in a staff exercise during Khaan Quest 12 to enhance their ability to operate in a multinational environment.

Khaan Quest is a regularly scheduled, multinational exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific and hosted annually by the Mongolian Armed Forces. Khaan Quest 12 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote regional peace and security. This exercise marks the tenth iteration of this regionally significant training event.

Among those on hand for this year's exercise was Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

"The importance of Khaan Quest is we've found over the last ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan that coalition building and partnership is the best way to build capacity and capability," McHugh said.

In a world of different cultures, customs, and languages, learning to transcend these differences and work together for a common cause is imperative to the success of any multinational endeavor, said leaders who participated in the exercise.

"This exercise gives us an opportunity to train in an environment that exposes us to different ways of conducting peacekeeping operations," explained Maj. Mark Binggeli, executive officer, 1st Battalion, 297th Cavalry (Reconnaissance and Surveillance Squadron), Alaska Army National Guard. "It benefits us in getting a whole new perspective."

In the staff exercise, the various participants are tested and trained by putting them in a fictional scenario where they have to plan missions, react to situations that arise, and interact with external entities like the media and the Red Cross. Elements of the exercise are tasked with role-playing as these external people and organizations.

"The purpose here is to exercise the staff and allow them to work with government and non-government organizations," said 1st Sgt. Stephan Young, operations noncommissioned officer, 1st Battalion 297th Cavalry (Reconnaissance and Surveillance Squadron), Alaska Army National Guard.

As the situations unfold in the fictional nation created for the exercise, the staff must navigate through various problems to meet the needs of the nation's population, explained Binggeli.

The complexity of the individual pieces moving simultaneously as the fictionalized scenario evolved challenged the staff exercise, or STAFFEX, participants to consider potential situations that may otherwise have been overlooked. This kind of training gives the staff the ability to anticipate and prepare for conceivable variables in future peacekeeping missions, they said.

Another benefit to multinational training is that it helps build stronger relationships between nations. In this year's exercise, more than 10 nations have come to train together in the vast countryside of Mongolia, strengthening the bonds between one another.

"It brings our Soldiers together with soldiers of other nations," said McHugh. "This is how you make friends."

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