Minnesota Very Nice (6 Regiment Army Air Corps)

Last July I was lucky enough to take part in the UK/US Reserve Forces Exchange Programme, an annual reciprocal exchange between the TA, the US Army Reserve and US Army National Guard.

Participants gain practical experience and an insight into the structure, equipment and operational doctrine of the Armed Forces of the other country.

The US forces do not go in for ‘capbadge’ loyalties as we do. A soldier’s ‘Military Operational Speciality’ and schools – i.e. trade courses – are more important. I have more MI than Avn courses under my belt, and was asked to choose between Annual Training with an MI unit or an Avn unit. A no brainer, really… I was headed for the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade.

After flying to Washington and spending the weekend doing the tourist bit in DC I was driven up to Camp Ripley in Northern Minnesota. I was attached to the Headquarters & Headquarters Company (HHC) for the Brigade.

The US National Guard is divided into units in each of the 50 states and US territories and operates under their respective state governor or territorial adjutant general. It may be called up to respond to domestic emergencies and natural disasters. Most guardsmen are M-Day soldiers – part-timers – but a significant number are full-time. The brigade includes full-time and part-time aircrew. A member of the National Guard enjoys a significant number of financial and other benefits. However, if you don’t turn up one weekend and you haven’t provided an alibi, the Guard will send the police to come get you and you will probably end up in jail.

“Minnesota nice” is a term used by Minnesotans to describe themselves and means courteous, reserved and anxious to please. HHC 34 CAB were a friendly bunch and very curious about ‘the Brit’ in their ranks.

On the range days I qualified on the M16 and the M4 carbine and had the opportunity to fire the M249 SAW Minimi and the .50 cal Browning. Head space and timing are now etched in my brain.

There were a number of opportunities to fly with the UH-60 Air Assault battalion on day insertions/extractions, and also night time training, for which we borrowed some NVGs.

We headed out to a remote part of the training area with the aeromed evacuation company where my chaperone (Sgt Reem) and myself were hoisted up into the aircraft.

There were other fun items, including MOAT training (FIBUA) being run by the USMCR. We also had a run out in a M1 Abrams main battle tank.

In truth, I didn’t have to do much work during my two weeks in Minnesota. I imagine any future exchange candidate from 6 Regt AAC (V) would be placed in a ‘coal face’ duty. I learned a lot about working with Americans and their way of doing things. I was treated like a guest and looked after very well by 34 CAB.

The UK/US Reserve Forces Exchange Programme is an excellent opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone.

Written By: Cpl Perry 677 Sqn AAC (V) 6 Regt AAC

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