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News | April 18, 2024

Wisconsin Air Guard conduct security training with Papua New Guinea counterparts

By Staff Sgt. Kati Volkman

Wisconsin Air National Guard members from the 128th Air Refueling Wing Security Forces Squadron and the 115th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron were in Papua New Guinea the week of March 17-22 conducting training alongside the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) as part of the State Partnership Program.

The Airmen brought their knowledge and experience to train PNGDF military police and other service members in tasks such as crowd control, compliance techniques, physical security and electronic security.

Training missions like this involve lots of preparation and planning, and according to 1st Lt. Andrew Schaitel, security forces operations officer with the 115th Security Forces Squadron, this trip has been a good lesson on what is needed to be even more prepared for the next visit to Papua New Guinea.

“It’s been helpful to establish connections with the defence force, to learn things like where the training grounds are and where our stays will be,” Schaitel elaborated. “It helps solidify our planning process for future training opportunities in order to be even more successful.”

Senior Master Sgt. Philip Steffens, who works with the training section of the 115th Security Forces Squadron, reflected on how important these training missions are for the Airmen he works with.

“A lot of our Airmen haven’t deployed yet, so they haven’t seen other countries and cultures,” Steffens said. “To be able to come here and instruct soldiers from another country, while also learning from them and how they do things, helps us to be more well-rounded individuals and better at what we do.”

One of those Airmen is Airman 1st Class Aidan Andrews who serves with the 128th Security Forces Squadron. Andrews has been in the Air National Guard for less than a year, and was excited to have the opportunity to come on this training mission so early in his career.

“I feel like they want to branch out new opportunities for the new Airmen and it is very much appreciated,” Andrews said. “When I joined I figured, as a lower enlisted Airmen, I would get to do things that would get me acquainted with the Air Force but nothing too special, and then I hear I’m getting sent to another country that I couldn’t even place on a map. I feel honored to be able to teach, especially at my experience level.”

Steffens is a major proponent of the mutual benefit of these training missions, noting that they help develop relationships with the PNGDF, especially their military police battalion.

“They are really receptive, they are interested in learning and we’re interested in learning from them, so I think it’s been great for both countries,” Steffens said.

Schaitel said the partnership has allowed the Airmen to increase their training skills while bolstering the relationship with the PNGDF.

“This has been an excellent opportunity for Wisconsin and Papua New Guinea to build on our historic relationship, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we can continue to develop it in the future,” Schaitel said.

The Wisconsin National Guard and Papua New Guinea partnership began in 2020, and since then several key leader engagements and site visits have strengthened that relationship. The State Partnership Program links individual states with armed forces of partner nations around the world to forge lasting cooperation, friendship and mutually beneficial relationships.