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Engineer training strengthens U.S., Kenyan armed forces partnership

By Meredith March January 20, 2017

VICENZA, Italy -- Massachusetts National Guard engineers and their State Partnership Program counterparts from the Kenya Defence Forces Engineer Brigade are putting their partnership into action at Thika Barracks, a job site near Nairobi, Kenya, where they are conducting overseas deployment training.

The State Partnership Program helps partner nations build a skilled force capable of helping to develop the host nation's defenses and security, disaster response, crisis management and interagency cooperation capabilities, according to Massachusetts National Guard officials. The partnership between Massachusetts and Kenya is one of 12 such partnerships between National Guard forces from 10 states and countries on the African continent.

The current training, the largest event so far in the yearlong partnership between the Massachusetts National Guard and KDF, includes exercises in site development, vehicle preventive maintenance checks and services, site clearing, grading, road improvement, foundation work and debris removal.

Throughout the training, which began last month and will continue into April, rotating teams of about eight National Guardsmen will cycle into Kenya to participate. Collaboration during this event will facilitate interoperability between the partner militaries, as well as inform planning for future engagements, officials said.

These objectives are already being fulfilled, according to National Guardsmen from the first cycle.

"(Massachusetts National Guard and KDF participants) have been pretty successful so far," said Sgt. 1st Class Joe Sullivan. "I definitely want to do this again in the future. I want to see how we can continue to integrate."

First Lt. Patrick St. Pierre, an officer in charge, said training with the KDF engineers has positively affected how he approaches unexpected complications.

"I've learned about getting outside of a problem," he said. "Kenyans use collective wisdom to solve problems ... They used creativity and ingenuity in ways we might not have thought about."

St. Pierre believes the stage has been set for an increasingly rewarding SPP relationship.

"The future is wide open," he said. "We have laid the foundation."

(Editor's note: The 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs Office at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., contributed to this article.)

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