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NEWS | April 10, 2024

Enduring state partnership strengthens leader development through exchange

By Capt. Cody Stagner, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Members of the Ecuadorian military visited the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville from February 24-28, 2024, for a leadership exchange focused on military officer development.

This security cooperation engagement was hosted by the 238th Regiment and its Officer Candidate School. It is one in a series of 2024 Kentucky National Guard State Partnership Program events, including subject matter expert exchanges in fire support concepts, communications in domestic operations, and search and rescue.

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U.S. Army Lt. Col. Daniel Cooper, the KYARNG SPP director, said engagements like this one can take up to two years to plan and are part of a long-term strategy of cooperation and building relationships with Kentucky’s partner nations.

“Conducting engagements between the Ecuadorian military’s officer producing programs and Kentucky’s OCS introduces future leaders from both organizations to each other at an early stage of their careers,” said Cooper.

Cooper added that with 28 years of partnership with the South American nation since 1996, SPP is forecasting continued engagements well into the future.

“This event provided junior leaders [such as the visiting Ecuadorian officer cadets and KYARNG officer candidates] early exposure to this relationship where they will have a wealth of opportunities to interact in future engagements,” he said. “During those future engagements, they will be able to draw upon these shared experiences, improving the character of relationships between Ecuador and Kentucky.”

Ecuadorian Air Force Capt. David Reyes, a leadership instructor and flight school instructor, showed particular interest in observing the OCS program of the KYARNG during his visit.

“In the first year [of training at the Air Force officer academy], we have training in the field,” said Reyes. “And we also have specialty training on infantry tactics.”

Reyes noted that while the Ecuadorian Air Force and the KYARNG OCS share similarities in field training procedures, a distinct aspect of the KYARNG experience involves more technical learning opportunities.

Navy Lt. Gabriela Moran, visiting from the Ecuador Naval Academy, reiterated Reyes comments although she said her experiences in the Navy are different.

Moran said her biggest takeaway from exchanging Tactics Techniques and Procedures (TTP) with Kentucky’s OCS is how much emphasis the Kentucky instructors placed on the planning phase of troop leading procedures for small unit movements and actions on an objective.

U.S. Army Capt. Jonathan Dunaway, an OCS platoon trainer with 2nd Battalion, 238th Regiment, said their field training exercise curriculum in the state’s OCS program is comprehensive when it comes to teaching Troop Leading Procedures (TLPs).

“We are committed to preparing future officers for their leadership roles within the KYARNG,” said Dunaway. “Our focus is on equipping them with the skills to lead a platoon to accomplish various mission objectives.”

“We have similar training back home,” said Ecuadorian Army Cadet Lucio Pilco. “The biggest difference for me is the terrain.”

While some field tactics share similarities and differences based on geography or military branch, another variation may be found in the military foods.

Pilco highlighted this revelation while eating an MRE with his American peers: “We sweat a lot doing jungle training, so I think our meals have more salt in them.”

For 28 years, meal sharing during SPP engagements has played a crucial role in promoting positive cultural exchanges and encouraging each side to overcome language barriers.

Dunaway appreciated how these engagements provide practical exposure to language challenges, believing such experiences will empower Soldiers to navigate multilingual environments with confidence. 

“It’s vital they succeed not just in operations, but in building bridges between cultures and forging lasting partnerships,” said Dunaway.

As the Kentucky National Guard undertakes both state and federal missions, its leaders are positioned for global influence.

Cooper sees the SPP as a cornerstone for fostering relationships with Kentucky’s partner militaries and a unique strength that ensures the KYARNG and Ecuador can face any challenge together.

“These exchanges refine our capabilities and reinforce our shared values and mutual respect,” Cooper said. “By collaborating often and honestly with subject matter expert exchanges, both organizations can work together to overcome almost any obstacle.”

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