U.S. Army Europe
Sept 21 2012
Kansas National Guard Soldiers partner with Armenian forces for
September 20, 2012
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Grieco
YEREVAN, Armenia — Soldiers from the Kansas Army National Guard and a
civilian representative from the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Training
Center are here to teach international Humanitarian Mine Action
standards to members of the Engineering Companies of the Armenian
Peacekeeping Brigades from Sept. 18-28.
The partnership between Kansas and Armenia is one the 22 State
Partnership Programs under the U.S. European Command, and is
administered in part by U.S. Army Europe.
“In essence, we’re doing a train the trainer mission and trying to
build their internal capacity,” said Martin Dumond, on-site training
instructor from the HDCT, out of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
“Armenia at this point does not really have a national set of standard
operating procedures for demining, we give them our training and as a
result the idea is that they take the concepts to help develop their
own national training programs.”
Dumond said the procedures taught in the HMA program are based around
the approved international set of standards set down in Geneva,
Switzerland. He said the goal of he and the Soldiers are to show the
Armenians the basic framework and then allow them to tailor that to
fit their respective country’s needs.
“It’s a way of engaging with the Armenians in the humanitarian realm,”
said Dumond. “If they can begin to follow internationally approved
methodology and move in the direction the international community
recommends. What makes this mission different than most is the
Armenians are at a point where they are developing standard procedures
and a training program, so we are building it from the ground up
The officer-in-charge of the Kansas National Guard detachment in
Armenia, Capt. Michael Liotta, has said this is not the first
partnership engagement Kansas has had with Armenia.
“I believe we’ve done this demining training almost three times, maybe
more,” said Liotta, a Topeka native. “We also help them to set up
their emergency management plans. The adjutant general of the Kansas
National Guard is also in charge of emergency response management in
Kansas, so we brought in Armenian first responders to tour and train
in our facilities.”
Liotta said Kansas and Armenia are state-partnership-program nations
through a cooperative agreement that was forged at the time Armenia
declared independence from the Soviet Union.
“Bob Dole, a senator from Kansas was hurt in World War II and the
doctor that tended to his wounds was Armenian,” said Liotta.
“Apparently they stayed in contact over the years and when Armenia
declared independency, the U.S. was the first country to recognize
them and it was due in large part to that relationship between Bob
Dole and the doctor.”
Liotta also said ever since the state-partnership was formed between
Kansas and Armenia, a Kansas National Guard officer has been stationed
here to help facilitate partnership type engagements with Armenia.
One guardsman said this opportunity was a chance for him to come
face-to-face with his State’s international partner nation.
“You always hear about this partnership, but you never really see the
other partner and this was a great opportunity to come out and meet
the Armenians,” said Sgt. Michael Rogers, Pittsburg, Kan., native and
combat engineer in the Kansas National Guard. “Now that we finally
have a chance to come out and do some direct joint training with them,
it has been amazing.”
Rogers said Kansas has always been very supportive of U.S. service
members and he sees this each time the Guard deploys. He said this
training is a chance to show Kansas another aspect of the Guard.
“We are showing them we do something else in the world than war, that
we’re training people to do a humanitarian mission and save lives,”
Rogers. “It’s a big deal to me and I can really see it becoming a
thing of pride for the people of Kansas.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Nelson, a Wichita native and combat engineer in
the Kansas National Guard, has said landmines are dangerous if left
unchecked and this training will enable the Armenians to remove these
hazards from their country. He said even helping to train someone to
remove these mines gives him a good feeling inside.
Rogers said it’s about helping the Armenians to return a piece of
normalcy to their lives.
“Armenians just want to be safe and work a normal life, like we do,”
said Rogers. “They want the chance to work their land, play soccer
games, go out and enjoy life and this is part of it. They are truly
respectful of their land and these people love being Armenian, and you
can really see it. In a way, Kansas is instilling pride in a whole
Rogers also said many Armenians already recognize Kansas and when they
are approached by Armenian troops who see their unit patch, the
Armenian soldiers instantly recognize their partners in Kansas.
“That just shows how close we are,” said Rogers.
During one portion of the class, Armenian and American members
introduced themselves. Many of the Armenian peacekeepers had conducted
deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and even the Balkans.
“I was actually surprised to hear that,” said Liotta. “A few of these
guys were with us in Iraq, and well I believe anytime our militaries
can work together on a mission that’s a fantastic opportunity, it
really shows that we’re all on the same team and can associate
ourselves as being one.”
Liotta and Rogers both said they noticed the intense discipline, work
ethic and determination of the Armenian soldiers. Both said they are
highly impressed by this intense dedication to duty and country.
One of the Armenian students, Junior Sgt. Tigran Nikoghosyan, of the
Engineering Company of the Armenian Peacekeeping Brigade, said this
was not his first time encountering the Kansas National Guard.
“I remember and befriended Sgt. Travis Eichhorn from the 2008 visit,”
said Nikoghosyan, referring to a Jan. 22 visit by the Kansas National
Guard that was timed to correspond with the arrival of mine detection
and disposal equipment provided by the U.S. “Having known him and
recognized him from that visit, I instantly recognize the knowledge
and skills these soldiers bring out here.”
Nikoghosyan said the field exercises were among his favorite portion
of the training as it enabled him to physically apply the knowledge he
has been studying in the classroom thus far. He said judging by his
six years in the peacekeeping brigades, he can say Armenia is no
stranger to international military-to-military cooperation and hopes
to see such cooperation increase and magnify overtime.
“When it comes to cooperation, I would like not only to see the
Americans come out to Armenia, but I would like to see some more
Armenian specialists have the opportunity to study in America with
U.S. troops,” said Nikoghosyan.
Another student, Pvt. Robert Abajyan of the Engineering Company of the
Armenian Peacekeeping Brigade, said he feels the exchange of knowledge
and skills through these types of cooperative training exercises is
essential when it comes to humanitarian mine action missions.
“As these contacts bring with them flows of information, new
knowledge, and experience cooperation these days plays a vital role in
global security,” said Abajyan. “Honestly, you never know what may
happen next, cooperation and joint-training such as this helps us to
be prepared as professionals to face any mission Armenia or the world
may ask of us.”
Abajyan said demining is a critical mission in today’s world as much
of the world has unexploded ordnance and minefields scattered about.
He said by conducting international demining missions lives are being
saved around the world.
The Kansas National Guard are in Armenia assisting a U.S. European
Command host nation to develop its own Humanitarian Mine Action
infrastructure capable of eliminating landmine hazards, returning land
for economic use, educating people on landmine hazards and assisting
victims of landmines and other explosive remnants of war. In addition
to the traditional demining, EUCOM also provides training in mine risk
education, mine victim assistance, and EOD courses in stockpile
Currently future HMA events include conducting stockpile destruction
and management in Cyprus, underwater explosive remnants of war
disposal in Montenegro, mine victim assistance in Kosovo and Romania,
underwater explosive remnants of war in Ukraine, and explosive
ordnance disposal in Albania.