May 07, 2013 News
Three National Guardsmen brought their expertise of ordnance and demolitions to Guyana recently, continuing an ongoing partnership between Florida and the South American nation.
Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard’s 221st Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit and an Airman from the 125th Fighter Wing traveled nearly 2,000 miles southeast of Miami to Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown. There they participated in an information exchange with members of the Guyana Defence Force.
The Florida Guardsmen – all EOD specialists with experience in combat zones – conducted the exchange as part of the Florida National Guard’s State Partnership Programme from April 24. During the brief visit they toured GDF facilities in and around the capital, provided assessments of ammunition storage and arms room procedures, and offered best practices for handling ammo and explosives.
“When we’re doing these assessments we are making recommendations on better ways to inventory arms and ammunition,” explained Second Lieutenant Thomas Ashlock of the 221st EOD.
“Perhaps we just recommend security locks or different accountability procedures. We will give them some suggestions, but we will also learn some tips that help us when we go back to the States.”
Even though this was Ashlock’s fifth State Partnership Programme assignment with the Florida National Guard, the mission didn’t go entirely as planned: his luggage and military uniform were lost during the flight to Guyana forcing him to wear civilian clothes for the week; seemingly perpetual rain interrupted scheduled visits; and his briefing to GDF members at their headquarters in Camp Ayangana was punctuated with loud music from the Guyanese Defence Force band practicing nearby.
“We encounter problems here just like we do in the States,” Ashlock, wearing a blue polo shirt and khaki shorts, said of the exchanges. “But ‘mission must go on’. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing as long as I have the knowledge for these exchanges. I’d much rather be in uniform, but I can’t really help that.”
During the visit the Guardsmen also met with Guyanese EOD teams at Camp Stephenson on the outskirts of Georgetown, sharing ideas about everything from safe disposal of outdated ammunition to possibilities for recycling old shell casings. This included a site survey of an ammunition storage compound and a demonstration of “burning” unexploded rounds in a safe and efficient manner.
Capt. Drumsom McCauley of the GDF said the exchange reconfirmed some techniques and training their EOD experts and senior non-commissioned officers already had, but for some of his soldiers the briefings were unique.
“It is a plus for us because we have never been (some of them) exposed to this type of exchange before,” McCauley said. “We constantly keep doing these exchanges just to improve our standards here in the GDF.”
Warrant Officer Dwayne Layne, an EOD expert in the Guyana Defence Force, explained how valuable the exchange was for the GDF soldiers – especially when the talk steered toward safe handling of explosives.
As a member of the GDF for 15 years Layne has worked with a lot of explosives, but he said it was important that some of the less-experienced soldiers are reinforced with the safety aspects of their profession.
“As EOD we take some great risks, so we put all of our safety measures into place,” Layne said. “This is a very dangerous job.”
The visit was much more than just an information exchange, however; like other SPP visits it was an opportunity for the Florida National Guard to reaffirm its relationship with a partner nation.
“The partnership with Guyana is so important because it is U.S. Southern Command’s hope, the Florida National Guard’s hope, and Guyana’s hope that we can strengthen this partnership,” said U.S. Military Liaison Officer for Guyana Capt. Benton Gammons.
“It started a few years ago and every year it has been consistently better. But what we want to do is continue to engage and grow the programme. It is mutually beneficial to us to reach out to partner nations and help them, because they help us with our interests in the region.
“It is also mutually beneficial for the partner nation because we bring some things to bear with our forces – especially in the Florida National Guard – that they may not have access to.”
The Florida National Guard has maintained a partnership with Guyana since 2003.
The SPP supports U.S. national interests and security cooperation goals by engaging partner nations via military, socio-political and economic conduits at the local, state and national level. The SPP emerged 20 years ago, and links state National Guards with the defense ministries of partner nations.
Besides Guyana, the Florida National Guard is actively partnered with nations in the Regional Security System – an international agreement for the defense and security of the eastern Caribbean region.
Florida’s SPP is based at the Florida National Guard headquarters in St. Augustine, and is maintained by both Army and Air National Guard personnel.
“It builds relationships,” Ashlock said of this most recent visit to Guyana. “It is a great opportunity for the soldiers to learn from each other and build camaraderie.” (www.dvidshub.net)
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