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Arizona Army National Guard teamed with Canadian Army for Cougar Conqueror 2016

By Staff Sgt. Adrian Borunda December 16, 2016

ALBERTA, Canada -- Members of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 158th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion teamed up with Canadian Army logisticians to provide the manpower, sweat and service needed for Exercise Cougar Conqueror 2016.

The HHC Soldiers integrated with the 3rd Canadian Brigade during the exercise at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, Alberta, Canada, during offensive training there.

"The transition into assimilating with the Canadian forces was quite seamless," said Maj. Jonathan Gutierrez, executive officer of the battalion and officer in charge of Arizona Guardsmen. "It also helped that the [Canadians] came to Douglas, Arizona before to conduct similar operations."

For many of the Soldiers, this was their first international exercise that included logistical, medical, and combat oriented training.

"Working in a combined operation like Cougar Conqueror, the Soldiers learned that they have to remain flexible, understand our partners and that there are different ways of doing things and sometimes you have to blend them," said Gutierrez.

HHC Soldiers arrived before the main body and worked long hours preparing the battlespace for the main force. Building and supplying a forward operating base, in-processing and out processing all exercise participants, and preparing and delivering hot food to Soldiers in the remote locations of the base are but a minuscule part of the Arizona Guardsmen daily duties.

"Working better with your instincts and your values and principles are some of the things we've improved on out here," said Gutierrez. "Sometimes listening to your gut and ignoring your head will get you mission accomplishment."

This large-scale exercise pushed the 158th to its limits and forced the Soldiers to learn to improvise in a dynamic situation.

"This is just a great way to show the citizens of Arizona that we are doing great things with our partner ally forces and that we are flexible enough to accomplish any mission," said Gutierrez.

Lt. Col. Bobby Alolega, commander of the 39th Service Battalion, Canadian Army, brought the 158th into his unit to provide logistical support to maintain the exercise and also train in the exercise.

"The work that we've done over the years with the Soldiers of the 158th has allowed us to augment our smaller reserve number and makes supporting our Canadian forces easier," said Alolega.

Sgt. 1st Class George Schimmel, HHC first sergeant, led the everyday effort to make Cougar Conqueror 2016. "The operation tempo is very high, and we've been conducting supply convoys everyday while simultaneously providing FOB security," said Schimmel.

That high level of training pushed the Soldiers beyond their limits, both physically and professionally.

"Everyone in the company is tired, but you still see smiles, they are happy, they are engaged and not one Soldier in the unit isn't constantly engaged," said Schimmel.

Providing logistical support to close to 3,000 Soldiers, airmen and sailors participating in Cougar Conqueror 2016 gave the Arizona Guard members the opportunity to expand their skill sets.

"Using their basic soldier skills, HHC Soldiers are conducting missions that they wouldn't normally do, take for example the chaplains assistant doing gate security," said Schimmel.

"They are really learning and expanding professionally here."

The Soldiers from both countries and different components overcame the larger than life mosquitos, rough terrain and grueling hours to complete Cougar Conqueror 2016.

"These international exercises are important and provide valuable training for Arizona Guardsmen to participate in real-world missions across the globe," said Schimmel.

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