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Training, experience shared through international exchange

The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force Cpl. Andrew “Neil” Manson trains at a firing range at Volk Field, Wisconsin, with members of the South Dakota Air National Guard Ready Augmentee Team. (National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Nancy Ausland)

The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force Cpl. Andrew “Neil” Manson trains at a firing range at Volk Field, Wisconsin, with members of the South Dakota Air National Guard Ready Augmentee Team. (National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Nancy Ausland)

JOE FOSS FIELD, SD -- The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force Cpl. Andrew "Neil" Manson and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Karber, a member of the South Dakota Air National Guard's 114th Security Forces Squadron, had a rare opportunity to experience what the other does as members of their respective security forces for the U.S. and the U.K.

This, in thanks to the Military Reserve Exchange Program, a reciprocal program used by the South Dakota National Guard to host Soldiers and Airmen from foreign reserve forces during their annual training or similar day-to-day operations.

"It is both a cultural and doctrinal program," said Col. Tim Moran, South Dakota Army National Guard's deputy chief of staff. "It affords our Airmen and Soldiers an opportunity to learn from our NATO partners."

Manson, a gunner stationed at England's RAF Waddington, serves part-time in the RAF Reserve, much like National Guard members in the U.S. He spent two weeks this summer with the 114th Security Forces Squadron, which included time in Rapid City, observing the Army National Guard, a unit training assembly with the Air Guard in Sioux Falls, and a few days in Volk Field, Wisconsin, training with the 114th's Ready Augmentee Team.

"It was very interesting to see how the U.S. does its UTA's," said Manson. "You pull all your trades together to train jointly, where we train specifically on own trade. You're as one entity and that was good to see."

In addition to training, the exchange exposed Manson to the SDNG organizational structure, equipment and capabilities.

"From an interoperability aspect, it's a valuable experience for service members to be able to work alongside their international counterparts - to learn their tactics and techniques, which differ slightly from ours," said Moran. "It may mean life or death during a future overseas contingency operation."

Manson expressed his gratitude and encouraged fellow service members to take advantage of the exchange program.

"To anyone who is given the opportunity to participate in an exchange like this, I say 'Go for it,'" said Manson, who returned to the U.K. in September. "It was the ideal opportunity to learn about our partners over the pond."

Shortly after Manson departed, Karber made his trip "across the pond" where he would spend the majority of the exchange in Sennelager, Germany, training with the RAF Regiment, getting a better understanding of allied nation's reserve forces and building partnership capacities.

"There is a variety of similarities and differences between the way the RAF and the U.S. Air Force conducts training," Karber said. "We take on a military police role, whereas, the regiment is strictly trained in base defense and combat. In joint tasking, the RAF and the USAF work well, because we both share the same concept - Integrated Base Defense."

"The relationships and training experiences that we have with all our foreign allies are extremely important for us now and the future," said Moran. "It improves both organizations and makes us stronger and more relevant. It is and has been a great opportunity to train together and learn from each other in structured training exercises versus having to do it for the first time on the battlefield."