BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Members of the 51st Troop Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard, alongside Airmen from the Transit Center at Manas spent two weeks training with local medics, ordnance and chemical Soldiers as a part of a field training exercise, here, which occurred alongside Regional Cooperation 2012.
“So the scenarios concern radiation in a rolling river also a chlorine release in the middle of the capital city of Bishkek,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Gallagher, readiness noncommissioned officer, 51st Troop Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard. “I did a lot of preparation at home creating hazard models to simulate the release so bringing over U.S. resources to enhance the training and to teach them CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear] tactics, techniques and procedures.”
Furthermore, the exercise included two days of training and another two days that involved Kyrgyzstani Soldiers using the training that they received in training lanes.
“There is two separate scenarios, one radiation contamination and one is the toxic release and there is two days for each. So on day one we taught, prepped and showed how we [U.S. Forces] would respond and then on day two we’d retrain, walk through again and then do a full scale exercise,” said Gallagher, who has been a chemical specialist since he joined the military 26 years ago. “This whole thing is four days long, from the day we meet with our delegation it’s a total of four days of training.”
However, chemical operations were not the only training that the 51st and the Airmen from Manas taught the Kyrgyzstani Soldiers. They also showed them counter-improvised explosive device and medical techniques.
“We’ve been working with their medical people training them on different techniques that they don’t have, especially those related to the overall exercise such as mass casualty, incident command and our TC3 techniques [tactical casualty combat care],” said Lt. Mike Kelly, nurse, Medical Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard.
The second day of training lanes integrated the three into one mass event as a final large-scale exercise for all three types of Soldiers.
“The U.S. military, that’s been our focus [counter-IED] for the last ten years,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Chase, Headquarters, Headquarters detachment, Massachusetts Army National Guard, and has been working counter-IED since 2003.
The main goal of the ordnance instructors was to cover counter-IED so during the culmination event that integrated all three groups into one joint coalition they had an IED to start off the lane.
“The exercise is good, and now we’re are making an attempt to bring all four of the exercise’s together, maybe next year we can integrate them a little bit better, but overall it’s a good exercise,” said Kelly, who is also a lieutenant in the Quincy Fire Department.
In addition it’s important for the Kyrgyz to see other ways to do these types of operations.
“It gave them exposure to something they’ve had very little exposure too,” said Chase. Also, it reinforced the importance of taking care of civilians from their home country.
“I think the exercise is very important to the Kyrgyz’s because they’ve only been shown how to do things one way and they’ve been told it’s the only way to do it,” said Gallagher. “For them to see our equipment and how we operate it can really help them in a real life situation. It’s important to note that they only have war time training so unlike our CST’s [civil support teams] they do not know how to respond to civilians and this is what both of these scenarios are, responding to civil societies.”
In the end, this training is not just important for the host country, but also for the soldiers of the 51st and those attached to them for this mission.
“The experience of being in Kyrgyzstan and the experience of different cultures, where else can you go to get this type of experience,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Caplis, senior medical noncommissioned officer, 51st Troop Command, and has been in the Amy medical field for 20 years. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the Mass. Guard to get involved in these types of missions and to work jointly with the Air Force, and use all of the resources of the country you are in.”
Caplis, who spent 10 years as an EMT paramedic as a civilian, was also involved in a lot of the preplanning, which took place over the course of the year at different conferences.
Additionally, it’s important to remember we may be here in the future to help during a time of need much like this exercise depicts.
“It’s good for us to teach our training, it keeps us proficient and if you can teach someone something new that’s good. Plus, you never know when you’ll be over here helping out in the future,” said Kelly.
The overall field training exercise was integrated with Regional Cooperation 2012, a multi-echelon joint training exercise involving countries from Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. U.S. Central Command helped facilitate the exercise, and Soldiers from the 51st Troop Command along with Airmen from the Transit Center at Manas were involved with the training representatives of the other countries.