The Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program puts National Guardsmen in regular contact with service members of numerous nations around the world. Michigan National Guardsmen usually get the opportunity to work with service members from their partnership countries, Latvia and Liberia.
While in Hohenfels, Germany for Exercise Allied Spirit IV Michigan Army National Guardsmen have continued to work with their Latvian partners. However, some of them have been able to branch out and build close partnerships with members of the Esercito Italiano, or Italian Army.
Exercise Allied Spirit IV is a U.S. Army Europe-directed, 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command-conducted multinational exercise designed to prepare forces in Europe to operate together by exercising tactical interoperability and testing secure communications within NATO Alliance members and partner nations.
The Michigan Army National Guardsmen are portraying a NATO Rapid Deployment Corps in Hohenfels (NRDC-H) with operational control over the Garibaldi Bersaglieri Brigade, a mechanized infantry brigade based in Naples, Italy. The Garibalde Brigade’s headquarters element is in Hohenfels training on implementing command and control over multi-national subordinate organizations.
Maj. Jason Evans, a judge advocate for the Michigan Army National Guard, has come to work closely with Capitano Francesco Galante, a captain from the Italian Army. Galante has been assigned to assist the Michigan Guardsmen as a liaison officer, helping the Italian and Michigan service members overcome language and doctrine barriers as they arise. Maj. Evans and Capt. Galante sit next to each other in the NRDC-H headquarters and have worked together on various issues involving the constructive units within the exercise’s scenario.
Maj. Evans said, “I’ve enjoyed working with Capitano Galante and learning about the differences and similarities between our militaries and cultures.”
“Major Evans is an excellent and well prepared officer,” said Galante. “Working with him, I have learned a lot about U.S. Army procedures and the way they approach problems from different aspects and points of view. It has been a very interesting experience and I look forward to working with him again, maybe in a real operation.”
Captain Joseph Prapotnik is another Michigander who has been able to work closely with his Italian counterparts. He has been detailed from the NRDC-H to the Garibaldi Brigade as a liaison officer and battle captain. It is his responsibility to assist the Italians with understanding American doctrine and operations orders while also assisting them in maintaining a current understanding of the battlefield. Not only is Prapotnik in a new environment while he’s working with the Italians, he is also learning a new field as a battle captain. Normally a battalion intelligence officer he is learning a lot about how brigade operations work. He is working closely with his Italian counterpart Capitano Daniele Troiano, an Italian battle captain. Troiano is responsible for managing the brigade’s battle staff and keeping the common operating picture updated for the brigade commander and staff. He receives incoming reports from subordinate units, filters the information and disseminates it to the appropriate staff officers within the brigade. He also updates the NRDC-H staff on the brigade’s current status.
“We work well together,” Capt. Prapotnik said. “It is a great opportunity to learn about each other’s culture and how our allies operate.”
Troiano said “Captain Prapotnik is a good officer. Even though the G3 [brigade operations] is not his specific branch, he worked in close coordination with me and he constantly updated me about the current situation and he is able to switch thought on the different operations. He has good qualities, like responsibility and tenacity. I hope to work with him again in the future, hopefully it will be abroad during a multinational mission.”
Unique training opportunities like these allow Guardsmen to reach out, interact and train with service members from many nations, inside of and outside of the State Partnership Program. It is hoped that this type of multi-national training during peacetime allows us to build relationships and bonds that will make our combined forces more efficient and more effective when trouble arises throughout the world.