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American Forces Press Service

South Carolina Guard Partners With Colombian Soldiers

By Army Maj. Cindi King
South Carolina National Guard

MELGAR, Colombia, June 26, 2014 – South Carolina National Guard soldiers teamed with members of the Colombian army to exchange knowledge on maintenance techniques in Colombia this month.

The South Carolina National Guard has worked with Colombia since 2012 through the National Guard Bureau-led State Partnership Program. The SPP is a Department of Defense program that links U.S. states with partner countries to support mutual security cooperation objectives.

Fifteen soldiers from the 742nd Support Maintenance Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, met with Colombian army maintenance personnel to work on weapons systems, night vision goggles, and vehicles. This was the second meeting between the team partners following their engagement last fall.

"This visit was a bit different for our soldiers," said Army Capt. Justin Montgomery, commander of the 742nd SMC. "We now have a better understanding of the fight our Colombian partners are still engaged in [against narcotraffickers and other criminals] and how critical their maintenance program is to sustain their mission. As soon as items are repaired, they go right back to the front lines."

Colombia also is interested in improving its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities with the support of the South Carolina National Guard. With Colombian forces getting closer to achieving their own long-term security goals, their focus is shifting to humanitarian assistance as they work to improve the lives of Colombian citizens.

Montgomery said his team always understood the value and importance of using training manuals and maintenance standard operating procedures, but the Colombians have to not only implement these systems, but also ensure everything that comes for repair is ready to be used in combat.

"When our soldiers deploy, we are sent overseas and face the enemy far from home," Montgomery said. "The Colombians are in this fight in their own country, and that is very humbling."

Coordinating these efforts was Maj. Dave King, SPP director for the South Carolina National Guard, who ensured the partners were meeting the strategic objectives of the combatant commander aligned with the goals of Colombian military.

According to King, maintenance is a key skill the guardsmen can provide, primarily because their expertise and use of equipment mirrors that of the Colombian military.

"The equipment used by the Colombian army is very similar to the U.S. Army," King said. "The unique capabilities our soldiers bring are different approaches to maintenance and techniques that the Colombians may not be familiar with. We hope to assist the Colombians with establishing a maintenance culture."

Montgomery said this mission has been a unique opportunity for his soldiers, by using their skills in different environment and seeing the value of helping another country.

"Colombian soldiers are among the best in the world," Montgomery said. "They've shared their skills training with others in the region and we're pleased to be working with them on this maintenance program."

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