MIDDLETOWN, Conn. –
Training opportunities in the Connecticut National Guard are ever present and sometimes, it just comes down to having a conversation and asking the right questions.
For Capt. Shaneka Ashman, a soldier in the operations sections of the 143rd Regional Support Group (RSG), a casual conversation about her love of traveling the world with her like-minded training NCO brought about an opportunity in her wheelhouse: the Military Reserve Exchange Program (MREP.)
The MREP is offered annually to National Guard and Reserve members in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force to travel to Denmark, Estonia, Germany, or the United Kingdom to participate in that country’s annual training. The all-inclusive program is open to officers, warrant officers and enlisted who are paired with the country that allows them to train in their primary military occupational specialty. Nominations for the MREP are accepted in the fall prior to the exchange year occurring.
“The application was simple and smooth, thanks to my unit [representatives] Maj. Matt Marks and Staff Sgt. Jared Barile who helped,” said Ashman. “I filled out the application to include explaining why I should be selected for the program.”
While each branch has different requirements for applying, the National Guard requires soldiers to complete an initial application and then once selected for the exchange, additional items are completed as necessary and dependent on the location of the cooperative they have been chosen for. Soldiers are notified of their acceptance into the exchange in January or February of the MREP year.
Ashman was selected for the Denmark exchange hosted by the Danish Home Guard (DHG) at Camp Nymindegab, July 1-8, 2022. Ashman joined a group of more than 50 National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who worked alongside nearly 90 servicemembers from the host nation, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Participants were placed into one of three courses depending on their rank and leadership skill levels. For this year’s MREP in Denmark, the course offerings were for Leadership, Basic Instructor and Advanced Instructor. Ashman found herself in the Advanced Instructor module which covered how to prepare lessons, self- evaluation, learning theory, joint experiences, didactics, methods of evaluation, presentations, and a certification for instructing.
“I gained a greater understanding of the Denmark, Lithuania and Estonia military operations through my daily interaction and collaboration with colleagues and instructors,” said Ashman. “I think this experience allowed us to challenge ourselves by thinking outside the box, outside of our typical military mindset, while breaking language and cultural barriers among ourselves. I was very fascinated to learn about each country and its military capabilities and operations. Although I learned a lot about developing a course utilizing multiple teaching theories or how to be an effective instructor or facilitator, I developed new ways that will enhance my skills and knowledge working jointly with our international partners.”
Once instruction is done for the week, Ashman and her classmates toured Copenhagen and immersed themselves in the culture outside the classroom before returning stateside.
“The experience was amazing! I have so many memorable moments,” said Ashman. “Some of my favorite memories include running with my instructor who showed us the entire base that has several historical bunkers from WWII, collaborating and connecting with colleagues from different countries, and experiencing Denmark’s culture and food. These are memories I’ll forever hold on to. My last day was emotional and bittersweet.”
Want to take the next step and see what the MREP is like yourself? Work with your training NCO for more information and be on the lookout for the training circular early this fall so you can experience this once-in-a-lifetime joint, multinational program for yourself.