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Kentucky Guardsmen multinational exercise builds relationships with partner nation militaries

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By CAPT. DESIREE DILLEHAY

Kentucky Guardsmen with the 149th Military Engagement Team participated in Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 with Kazakhstani, British, Kyrgyzstani, Tajikistani and Turkish partners July 22-Aug. 4 at the Illisky Training Center, Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Steppe Eagle, a premier multinational exercise focused on peacekeeping and peace support operations, provided eight Kentucky Soldiers a chance to build relationships with partner nation militaries and assist as subject matter experts.

At the battalion level and below, the Soldiers observed and conducted operations on everything from infantry and chemical defense to logistics, signal and media engagement.

“What an opportunity for Kentucky Guardsmen,” said Master Sgt. Richard Harris, 149th MET future operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “The Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Battalion has performed outstanding over the past two weeks. We’re honored to be a part of it and very pleased with the progress we made with our partner countries.”

Harris additionally represented the U.S. Army during the wreath-laying ceremony at Kazakhstan’s World War II Memorial on culture day alongside the U.S. Army Central Security Cooperation Division director and country desk officer - a testament to how Kentucky Soldiers have served as key ambassadors for the U.S. Army throughout both phases of Steppe Eagle 17.

This was the MET’s second time in Kazakhstan as part of Exercise Steppe Eagle 17. The first time occurred in March and April for phase one, commonly called Koktem, where the MET members participated in a series of information exchanges for similar topics.

This second trip presented an opportunity for the eight Soldiers to reconnect and continue building friendships with the Kazakhstani soldiers they worked with during Koktem.

“There’s a second element to (the exercise), and I think that’s probably a little bit more enjoyable for the soldiers and myself,” said Lt. Col. Kent Cavallini, 149th MET deputy commander. “I really like to build the relationships between our countries at the personal level, which will add on to the higher level objectives.” n