ACCRA, Ghana -- Combat engineers with the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 164th Regiment, Regional Training Institute recently wrapped up a weeklong event where they worked with combat engineers from the Ghanaian army exchanging ideas, techniques and procedures on a variety of engineer-related tasks.
The exchange was part of the North Dakota Guard’s ongoing relationship with Ghanaian armed forces as part of the National Guard Bureau’s 20-year-old State Partnership Program, which pairs up Guard units with 65 countries throughout the world.
For the U.S. engineers, this exchange was a bit different from past exchanges.
“This class isn’t your typical [entry level] class,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Deegan, with the 164th Regiment “This was a group of engineers that have been engineers for awhile, to include some instructors that work here at the engineer schoolhouse.”
Because of that, much of the information that was exchanged or shared went beyond the engineer basics, Deegan said.
“We’re not putting out the basic stuff like this is the end of the stick, this is the other end of the stick,” he said. “We were able to expand on tactics and procedures, [standing operating procedures], tactics, techniques and procedures and not just the lower level [tasks].”
Deegan stressed, the information sharing went both ways.
“It wasn’t necessarily instruction per se, but a group effort to see what similarities we have between the two armies,” he said.
The result was a blending of methodologies.
“We taught them that this is how U.S. doctrine would work something of this nature and they talked about their doctrine and we kind of played off of one another in terms of how can you take both of these and create a better product,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Pearson, with the 164th Regiment.
The exchange proved beneficial for both the Ghanaian and U.S. engineers.
“It’s important because what we knew already we now have confirmed it and what we didn’t know we have added it to our knowledge,” said Ghanaian Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Atule Asampana, an instructor at the Ghanaian army’s Coker-Appiah Engineer Training School, adding that many items touched on over the course of the exchange could be put to use in peacekeeping operations the Ghanaian engineers may find themselves taking part in.
Those same things could also be used in an instructional setting.
“It goes a long way to enhance our instructional abilities in the school,” said Ghanian Army Chief Warrant Officer 1 Peter Dogodzi, chief instructor at the engineer training school. “We also try and incorporate [the lessons] into what we already have here.”
The exchange also went beyond combat engineering tasks.
“The cultural side of it is the biggest piece,” Pearson said. “They shared everything from daily routines, eating meals together to they had an engineer soldier who was killed in a car accident and we were invited to the wake, so they taught us a lot about their customs, their traditions and in the process you learn that they’re good people.”
For Pearson, that was one of the biggest impressions he had from the exchange.
“My favorite part is the people,” he said. “The soldiers themselves - everybody is very open, very friendly. They accept you in right away and make friends with you and at no time do you feel like an outsider being treated like an outsider.”
Though both the U.S. and Ghanaian engineers felt the exchange was a worthwhile and positive experience, they also said the length of the exchange was too short.
“I want this U.S.-Ghana engineer training program to continue so that the relationship will be enhanced,” Dogodzi said. “But, one thing that I would like to talk about is the days that the U.S. [soldiers] stay is too short. It should be extended so that they can have more time with us and they can learn more from us too.”
Both Pearson and Deegan agreed.
“I think [at least] two weeks would be a better fit for actually spending time and having the ability to go further in your training,” Pearson said. “Whereas, right now, our practical exercises were limited to the area we’re in, so, maybe if you could go to the field and work in a field environment it would be more beneficial.”
The coming months will see Ghanaian soldiers working with the U.S. soldiers in North Dakota.
“When the guys come from here over to [North Dakota] they are actually branching out with some of the line units,” Deegan said. “I know we have [a few] individuals that will be going directly to the sapper unit and will be doing their annual training with them. That’s fantastic.”
This work, Ghana: North Dakota engineers work with Ghanaian army engineers, by SFC Jon Soucy, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.