Story by Capt. Stephen Hudson
Engineering experts from the Colombian army spent several days with Soldiers from the South Carolina Army National Guard exchanging ideas and information during a State Partnership Program engagement, August 21-25.
The engagement included a demonstration of bridging operations by the 125th Multi-Role Bridging Company on Lake Thurmond in McCormick County.
“We had good cross talk and they had good and relevant questions,” said U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Varin, company commander of the 125th Multi-Role Bridging Company.
The S.C. Army National Guard will soon begin using the Acrow Bridge, currently used by the Colombian army. Varin said his unit is interested in seeing the bridge in operation and wants to send Soldiers to Colombia for another exchange prior to fielding the new equipment so engineers from South Carolina can learn from their Colombian army counterparts.
“We practice in a more controlled environment than they do,” Varin said. “The Colombians operate in an area where the threat level is higher and unimproved roads is an obstacle they face.”
During the exchange, the Colombian army soldiers gave a presentation on Colombian engineering capabilities.
Colombian army Maj. Oscar Fernandez, executive and second commander for Battalion of Engineers No. 9 in Tolemaida, said he was impressed “by the capacity the U.S. Army has for bridges to be used during natural disasters.”
“The event was helpful and my hope is to work and train with the South Carolina National Guard in the future,” Fernandez said.
The South Carolina National Guard has been paired with the Republic of Colombia through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program since July 2012, and will complete more than 30 engagements with its partner this year.