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Wisconsin Guard Builds on Papua New Guinea Partnership

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kati Volkman,
  • Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea - Forty Wisconsin National Guard Airmen and Soldiers collaborated and trained with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force March 17-22 in support of the State Partnership Program.

Senior leaders of the Wisconsin Guard and Papua New Guinea, who have partnered in the SPP program since 2020, met as part of the exchange of subject matter experts. The partners shared expertise on medical and security training and how to train fellow troops and collaborate with senior noncommissioned officers. 

Wisconsin National Guard troops also worked through the challenges of shipping equipment and resources into the Pacific region to better understand what operations would look like in such an environment.

The cost-effective SPP is administered by the National Guard Bureau, guided by State Department foreign policy goals, and executed by the state adjutants general. It supports combatant commander and U.S. Chief of Mission security cooperation objectives and Department of Defense policy goals. 

“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 adviser for Health System Services at the Wisconsin National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, has been collaborating with his Papua New Guinea counterparts 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,” Vervoren said. 

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 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.”

“They were so excited to learn and we could tell they wanted to be there,” said Staff Sgt. Mckenzie Knight, a comprehensive medical training instructor with the 426th Regional Training Institute. “They wanted that knowledge, and they have so much pride for what they do. It was refreshing and inspiring.”

Breivogel said class feedback indicated 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 said. “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.”