U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Heller, 143rd Military Police Company, Connecticut Army National Guard, coaches British Army Cpl. Toby Townsend, Royal Military Police, while qualifying with a .50-caliber machine gun during the 143rd annual training at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, Aug. 21. Heller and Townsend are participants of the 2017 Military Reserve Exchange Program. (Photo by Sgt. Alicia M. Brocuglio, 130th Public Affairs Detachment, Connecticut Army National Guard)


FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Penn. – In order to facilitate reserve component training and integration with foreign allied nations, the Department of Defense offers the Military Reserve Exchange Program, which provides National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve personnel the opportunity to share knowledge and experience with their allied counterparts. For their 2017 annual training at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, the 143rd Military Police Company took advantage of the MREP to incorporate representatives of the British Army into their training.

Three Soldiers of the 143rd volunteered to participate in the professional exchange, taking advantage of this international partnership: 2nd Lt. Sam Watson, platoon leader, Sgt. 1st Class John Kaminski, platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Aaron Heller, team leader. In return, the Soldiers will visit and participate in a similar training event with the British Army later this year.

Soldiers of the 143rd viewed the MREP as an opportunity to share their experience, training, and leadership with an important ally.

“This program is vital for NATO allies to keep that cohesion and for understanding how we operate; and to work together during both war times and peace keeping time,” Heller said.

The program partners allied Soldiers with U.S. Soldiers of similar rank and military specialty, and provides a unique opportunity to train together.

British Army Capt. Aimee Nash, deputy commander, 116th Provost Company, Cpl. Toby Townsend and Cpl. Paul Harding, section commanders of the Royal Military Police, were each paired up with a member of the 143rd for the exchange.

“The program broadens our horizons as soldiers and in our personal experience and skills,” Townsend said. “If we are deployed in the future, at least we have knowledge of how to use and work with U.S. Army systems and work together.”

Townsend and Heller were paired for the training, and will continue to work together for the duration of the MREP period.

“We created relationships and good ties with our allies. Corporal Townsend and myself hit it off and we are like best friends; it’s a great feeling,” said Heller.

The allied Soldiers work together learning each other’s tactics, procedures, training expectations, and leadership styles, while overcoming dialect and cultural differences.

Heller said that the leadership experience is enhanced because it lets our allies see the respect and camaraderie within the unit. “And to have a foreign ally soldier come into our element, and to accept him like one of our own, we all worked together as team through our training missions,” Heller said.

Capt. Angela Nida, commander of the 143rd, facilitated and arranged for the exchange.

“Operationally, the British soldiers are learning a lot about the process of operation centers for training and a real world scenario,” Nida said. “We are teaching our Soldiers to not only implement, but to become empowered to teach. As leaders that is so important; to learn, do, teach.”

While here in the U.S., the British soldiers also provided the 143rd with some of their traditions and training exercises by taking the company on a, “Tactical Approach to Battle,” which is similar to an Army road march. The TAB is an 8-mile march, with participants carrying about 35 pounds of gear.

During this annual training the 143rd implemented a scenario-based training environment to execute military police operations, including stabilize security in a town, civil security using different processes, key leader engagement and training military police tasks. British Soldiers also took advantage of the opportunity to qualify on U.S. weapons systems.

“What I learned just from communicating with [the British soldiers] is incredible,” Heller said. “We are always on tactical convoy and the Royal Military Police are more like a police infantry unit. They are boots on ground, and walk and ruck everywhere they go. It’s amazing to the see the different tactics and how we operate and train.”

The MREP, formerly an officer-only exchange program, selects representatives that are qualified, experienced, and trained in their military specialties as determined by the respective Military departments.

The representatives are expected to follow the responsibilities and procedures provided by the Department of Defense for the program. The participants receive 2-4 weeks of training in each respective nation as part of a single rotation. The three exchange Soldiers of the 143rd are expected to join their counterparts in the United Kingdom later this year for two weeks of training with the British Army. .

“It is going to be a great experience for myself to go over there and train differently with them,” Heller said. “We should have more of this cross training with our NATO allies.”

Check out our future issues to read about the 143rd Soldiers’ experience training in the United Kingdom with the British Army.