HAIMA, Oman, –
When U.S. Army Soldiers think about border security the first image that may come to mind is one of the fences and checkpoints surrounding the physical boundaries of the United States of America, popularized in television shows and movies. What many Soldiers may not know about is the robust effort the U.S. Army dedicates toward border protection operations abroad, including working with partner nation forces to enhance security.
In Haima, Oman, U.S. Army Soldiers from the 157th Military Engagement Team, Wisconsin Army National Guard, assigned to U.S. Army Central, met with soldiers from the Royal Army of Oman's Border Guard Brigade to share strategies and ideas on how to better defend borders from a multitude of threats.
“We came to Oman to conduct an engagement with the Omani Border Brigade on best practices as far as security and different topics to include anti-smuggling, human tracking, contraband hiding areas, reconnaissance fundamentals, how to construct an observation post, vehicle search areas, vehicle control points, and other topics like that,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Reitz, a team leader assigned to the 157th MET.
The first four days of the interaction were spent with soldiers from both military forces leading classroom discussions to inform each other of their preferred tactics and techniques to ensure border security. On the fifth day soldiers from the U.S. Army and the Royal Army of Oman spent some time outside conducting a practical exercise to demonstrate their border security practices in action.
2nd Lt. Majid Sulaiman Al-Hosni, a soldier with the Royal Army of Oman Border Guard Brigade, stated that the techniques used by the Soldiers of the 157th MET left a lasting impression for him.
“My favorite part was the vehicle checkpoint. We learned the steps that you usually do because you are good at it,” said Al-Hosni.
The vehicle checkpoint exercise consisted of soldiers from each army reacting to a similar situation with different strategies. Soldiers from the Royal Army of Oman's Border Guard Brigade conducted the first scenario while the U.S. Army Soldiers stood close by and observed their tactics. After the scenario was completed a similar one was played out, but with the soldiers trading roles of participants and observers.
“I think being able to see an actual person give you information and then do a practical exercise at the end of that really shows that we are trying our best to give them the best information we can,” said Reitz. “And it promotes that interoperability to say, 'Hey, these are our best practices. This is how you do it. How can we combine them, how can we work in the future?'”
After spending hours writing notes in classrooms and taking part in a practical exercise the soldiers from both military forces came together to conduct an after action review. In it they discussed what they thought went well and what they thought could be improved from the engagement.
“All aspects of it were great,” said Reitz. “I think the practical exercise where they showed us how they conduct a vehicle traffic point, and how we conduct a vehicle traffic point really solidified the knowledge that we exchanged earlier in the week and it all culminated together.”
In addition to the lessons the American and Omani soldiers learned from each other, important relationships were strengthened between the two forces. In between classes and during lunch breaks soldiers would come together to talk about the similarities and differences between their military careers and their civilian lives.
“Trust was already there, but when we do engagements like this its really good that we know you better and you know us better,” said Al-Hosni.
The Soldiers from both the 157th MET and the Royal Army of Oman's Border Guard Brigade left the engagement knowing they had learned valuable lessons from each other that they were eager to take back to their units.