By Air Force Master Sgt. Greg Rudl
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. - Representatives from the Army reserve components of the United States and Canada met Dec. 16-18 here at the Army National Guard Readiness Center to increase interoperability and joint training opportunities between the two countries.
The seventh annual Cross Border Working Group (CBWG) included National Guard members from most of the states that border Canada, as well as officials from U.S. Northern Command and the active-duty Army.
The CBWG is the working arm of the Canada-U.S. Army Reserve General Officer’s Conference, which was held in May.
“The generals meet … and come up with guidance on what the working group should move forward on [in regards to exercises and exchanges],” said Maj. William Reitemeyer, Army Guard's Exercises branch chief, who helped organize the event.
During the three days, Canadian and U.S. Army representatives briefed on various topics including the status of their particular branches, training plans and schedules, aviation sourcing and how to get approval for crossing the border to participate in an exercise.
Lt. Col. Jeff Barr, chief of the operational training section for Canada’s Directorate of Army Training, headed up the Canadian delegation of about 20.
He said that increasing training opportunities through meetings like this make sense, especially when U.S. and Canadian troops are serving together in Afghanistan.
Barr said that since 2005, Guard Soldiers have made up the majority of U.S. forces participating in Maple Guardian exercises held at Camp Wainwright in Alberta, Canada, which prepare soldiers for combat in Afghanistan.
“It’s a good opportunity [for National Guard members] to work with a different country. We speak the same language, but do things a little differently,” said Barr, who added that the Canadian Army’s training centers are copied after the U.S. Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif.
In 2007, Wyoming’s C Company, 5th of the 159th General Support Aviation Battalion went north with 19 Soldiers and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and helped “validate” Canada’s 408th Air Force Squadron in Medevac operations.
This year the Canadians participated in the Patriot exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., and Golden Coyote, which was held in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota.
At Golden Coyote, Canada was one of four foreign nations to train with the more than 4,000 U.S. servicemembers from 92 units representing 27 states.
“As we drawdown from Iraq … there’s going to be more opportunities to train together,” said Maj. Henry Dickerson, the U.S. Army Reserve’s liaison officer to Canada, stationed in Kingston, near Fort Drum, N.Y.
Dickerson, who’s been in the position for about two years, said he ensures Canadian forces are taken care of when they train in the states.
He said both countries use a “crawl, walk and then run” approach to training, which means to demonstrate the task, practice it and then perform it as if in combat.
Another goal of CBWG is to improve exchange opportunities. Similar to what the Army Reserve has done, Reitemeyer said that the Army National Guard will send a permanent liaison officer to Canada and they in turn will station one in the exercise branch here at the Readiness Center.
Montana National Guard Sgt. Maj. Bradley Murfitt, who works in domestic operations at the Joint Forces Headquarters in Fort Harrison, Mont., said that even though Canada borders his state, Guardmembers just can’t cross the border whenever they want to train with their neighbors to the north.
Status of forces agreements must be worked out, passports displayed and other arrangements made, he said. “It’s like traveling to Germany to train,” he said.
The U.S. Army Reserve Command will host the next CBWG, according to Reitemeyer.