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Feature Stories

NEWS | Oct. 10, 2014

Arizona Soldiers take part in European operation with partner nation Kazakhstan

By Sgt. Tracy R. Myers U.S. Army Central

Two Arizona Army National Guard units joined forces to participate in Steppe Eagle 2014, preparing, mentoring and advising the Kazakhstani Peacekeeping Battalion on military-to-military tactics and support functions.

Exercise Steppe Eagle 14 is a U.S. Army Central-led, multilateral exercise focusing on peacekeeping and peace-support operations. The primary goal of the exercise is for the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense to validate its capacity for self-deployment and sustainment of its forces outside of the region to support U.N. peacekeeping mission.

An enduring partnership program was established in 1995 between Kazakhstan and the state of Arizona.

The Arizona National Guard 198th Regional Support Group sent subject matter experts in various fields to mentor and advise Kazakhstani troops.

They provided reception, staging and onward integration processes for Steppe Eagle in Kazakhstan and Germany, said Arizona National Guard Lt. Col. Zoe Ollinger, 198th RSG operations officer.

While assisting Kazakhstan with deployment support operations, the 198th RSG gained a greater understanding of their partner nation"s deployment procedures.

"This gave our staff members more experience conducting their mission essential tasks," said Ollinger. "We were able to teach [the KAZBAT] what the state of Arizona does to prepare their units for deployment, taking that Soldier readiness processing into Kazakhstan."

"We showed them our processes preparing Soldiers" personnel and medical records for deployment," she said. "We had a medical provider there checking their medical records."

After sending so many troops overseas, the 198th RSG has refined their deployment procedures.

"Since the state of Arizona has deployed more then 5,000 Army Soldiers into theater over the past 12 years, we have a very comprehensive list of procedures to cover," said Ollinger. "Their procedures were limited and we built it up to be more inclusive."

Another Arizona Army National Guard unit, the 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, was tasked to train with the Kazakhstani Peacekeeping Battalion, brining the two Arizona units together to accomplish one mission.

"There were not enough subordinate elements to the KAZBAT, so the USARCENT planner asked for an maneuver element from the state of Arizona," said Ollinger. "They came as a company-minus, which is like a beefed up platoon, with a commander and first sergeant, to fall under the KAZBAT, giving them three elements to maneuver during this Steppe Eagle exercise."

This worked perfectly with the State Partnership Program and is great way for the two units from different brigades to work together toward a common goal, said Ollinger.

The 158th Infantry Soldiers are under the tactical control of the KAZBAT, said Maj. Craig Norton, 1st Bn., 158th Inf., executive officer. A Moldovan platoon is also training with the ANG element, resulting in a multinational force.

For the past 12 years, the Arizona National Guard has been participating in the Steppe Eagle exercise with the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense.

"Steppe Eagle normally takes place in Kazakhstan, and is an opportunity for the KAZBAT to exercise operation control and mission command in a real-world scenario," said Norton. "This year they are exercising their ability to deploy and work as part of an international task force and conduct operations with both organic and foreign elements."

U.S. participation increases interoperability with participating nation, reaffirming commitment to global security and stability.

"We have been given the opportunity to bolster the State Partnership Program while provide a training opportunity for our Soldiers," said Norton. "Having the opportunity to work with other nations is an opportunity for us to strengthen our formation."

The Arizona National Guard Soldiers participating in Steppe Eagle are gaining knowledge from all aspects of the training.

"Every day we work together to make sure the infantry company and the mentors are learning best practices from the observer controller team here to take back to Arizona, making our organization better," said Ollinger. "It"s been a win-win situation and a great experience."

These Arizona Army National Guard Soldiers participating in Steppe Eagle 2014 are increasing mutual understanding and interoperability of forces while building a stronger relationship with their partner nation.