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NEWS | April 5, 2024

Wisconsin Guard seizes opportunity to grow relationship with Papua New Guinea

By Courtesy story, Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Forty Wisconsin National Guard Airmen and Soldiers spent the week of March 17-22 collaborating with, and training alongside, members of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force in support of the State Partnership Program.

The cost-effective State Partnership Program is administered by the National Guard Bureau, guided by State Department foreign policy goals, and executed by the state adjutants general in support of combatant commander and U.S. Chief of Mission security cooperation objectives and Department of Defense policy goals. The Wisconsin National Guard and Papua New Guinea began their partnership in 2020, and since have had several key leader engagements and site visits to strengthen that relationship.

This recent exchange of subject matter experts included medical and security training, as well as instruction in how to train fellow troops, collaboration with senior noncommissioned officers, and meetings between senior leaders. In addition, Wisconsin National Guard troops worked through the challenges of shipping equipment and resources into the Pacific region in order to better understand what operations would look like in such an environment.

“It is great to be able to bring our Soldiers and Airmen over here to experience the country and culture, while laying groundwork and building relationships with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force as well as the people of Papua New Guinea,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general.

Members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 426th Regional Training Institute and the 135th Medical Company worked with Papua New Guinea Defence Force medics on training other medics. Master Sgt. Clint Vervoren, a senior advisor for Health System Services at the Wisconsin National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, has been collaborating with his counterparts in Papua New Guinea since visiting last year.

“It ultimately came down to really focusing on building their instructor pool so they could better convey the information, and prop them up using their own medical training management plan (TMP),” Vervoren said. “We were able to use their TMP that they had just recently developed and teach their instructors how to read the TMP, how to connect with their students, and how to get the information across efficiently.”

Sgt. 1st Class Lindsey Breivogel, a master resilience trainer with the National Guard Master Resilience Training Center at the 426th Regional Training Institute, worked with the Papua New Guinea medics on teaching others.

“There is a lot that goes into how to be an instructor,” Breivogel said. “We went over the left and right limits of an instructor, how to get discussions going, and how to take material and get the group involved. I was impressed by the speed in which they processed what we taught them and then were able to demonstrate it back right away. As soon as we gave feedback, they were implanting that on the very next try.”

Staff Sgt. Mckenzie Knight, a comprehensive medical training instructor with the 426th Regional Training Institute, shared how she leans on personal experiences to facilitate discussions.

“They were so excited to learn and we could tell they wanted to be there,” Knight said. “They wanted that knowledge, and they have so much pride for what they do. It was refreshing and inspiring.”

According to Breivogel, class feedback suggested the collaboration was successful.

“I asked them what they learned today, and one of the students said, ‘I learned that the instructor is not the most important person in the room,’” Breivogel recalled. “This is such an important lesson to learn, and it’s one they picked up on through our discussions and instruction without ever hitting directly on that idea.”

Knapp met with Commodore Philip Polewara, acting defence chief of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, at the Kumul Leadership Centre in Murray Barracks.

“This partnership is very valuable in the Pacific, for both Wisconsin and our country,” Knapp said.

During an exchange of gifts, Knapp presented Polewara with a framed print of an interaction between Soldiers of the 32nd Division and a Papua New Guinean sketching a diagram in the dirt from Nov. 15, 1942 during the campaign to drive the Japanese army out of Buna.

“Images like this show us where the relationship between Wisconsin and Papua New Guinea began,” said Capt. Florian Waitl, Wisconsin National Guard command historian, “reminding us that we once worked shoulder-to-shoulder — which is a tradition we hope to continue as we strengthen the partnership between the two countries.”

Knapp agreed.

“This ongoing partnership continues to present new opportunities for growth,” Knapp said.

Vervoren has seen Wisconsin National Guard and Papua New Guinea participants build on prior exchanges.

“We’re able to bring more people in, so more people have continuity, and we’re able to continue to build that relationship,” Vervoren said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to come back and see how they’ve developed as instructors, see how we can readdress some of the instructor training, and build on what they’ve learned.”