OHRID, Macedonia – After a week of taking emergency medical response and interagency cooperation courses, service members toured “The pearl of Macedonia” during exercise Shared Resilience 13’s Cultural Day.
More than 250 service members visited the church of St. Sophia, the Ancient theatre of Ohrid, Lake Ohrid, and various other sites on June 2, 2013 covering more than 2,000 years of Macedonian history during their trip.
“During all of these activities a cultural day is needed to bring people closer together and to help them learn about one another to build a common spirit, said Lt. Col. Doshan Stojanovikj, co-director of exercise SR-13, Republic of Macedonia Army Medical Center. “Cultural day also gives service members a chance to recharge and rest so they will be ready to undertake the challenges to come during the rest of the exercise.”
“The City of Ohrid was deliberately chosen because of its scenery and rich historical heritage,” Stojanovikj said. “One of the objectives of the cultural day was to show the beauty of his country to the multi national service members.”
“It was such a beautiful setting and I was impressed with the 365 churches that were in the city,” Maj. MaryAnn Neely, an assistant chief nurse with the 320th Medical Company, said. “I loved the churches that we visited and the monastery on the lake was captivating.”
Neely said this was her first foreign exercise and was glad she had an opportunity to not only learn about Macedonian culture, but those of her peers who reside in the Balkan region.
“I think cultural day is important because we gain a deeper understanding of all the countries involved in the exercise and how they live their lives from day to day,” Neely said. “Once you learn a little bit more about their past and history, you gain a better understanding, which makes people bond closer together when you’re exposed to their community.”
Service members from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and the U.S were reminded that unity is essential to mission success during the trip, which allowed them to refocus on the disaster response exercise.
“This cultural day was amidst an exercise where we have a mix of participants from different religious backgrounds so this day was to show the regional and national character of this exercise.” Stojanovikj said. “I’m certain this cultural day brought great quality to exercise Shared Resilience and will undoubtedly contribute to its success and realization.”
Neely said she was convinced this cultural day trip brought soldiers together and believes cultural days could add an everlasting sense of camaraderie between multi national partners.
On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this experience a ten,” Neely said. “For all exercises conducted by the Army I think cultural days should always take place no matter where soldiers are working.”