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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Guard Trains with Croatian Partners to Mentor Afghans

On clear crisp morning in late May, members of Operational Mentoring Liaison Team (OMLT) 50 dutifully march onto the airfield in Pleso, Croatia just on the outskirts of Zagreb On the tarmac, an Antonov AN-32 from the Croatian Air Force is loaded with all of their gear, weapons, and equipment they will need for the next year  In a hangar just off the airfield, the team gathers in formation for their official send off ceremony

Comprised of 27 Soldiers, 12 from the Minnesota National Guard and 15 from the Croatian Army, OMLT 50 has spent the last few months training for this deployment to Afghanistan  They completed their training with a joint culminating event in Hohenfels, Germany at the Joint Military Readiness Center  Now they all stand shoulder to shoulder in front of the Croatian Land Forces Commanding General, Major General Dragutin Repinc

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In English, General Repinc congratulates the team on their hard work and training as they represent one of the most important missions NATO currently has: mentoring the Afghan National Army as they take the lead on the security of their country The role of the liaison team is critical to the future success of the Afghan Military and the country of Afghanistan Then, in Croatian, the general sounded off with the traditional greeting, “Pozdrav Domovini” which translates to ‘hail to the motherland’ To which, the team responded back with a loud “Pozdrav”

“It is important to note that we are one large team,” remarked Lt. Col. Davor Stipetic, Croatian Team Commander, after several months of training and several weeks together  “If we cooperate as one team, we are able to do anything It is an excellent opportunity to continue the long standing military cooperation between the Croatian Armed Forces and Minnesota National Guard These separate organizations have come together to form one chain of command that will conduct a very hard military task; mentoring the Afghan National Army We are also excited to help the Afghan people build their own Army that will one day allow them to take control of their country”

As the highest-ranking liaison team member from the US Army, Maj Justin Rodgers of Plymouth, Minn, was extremely happy with how the team had come together "It's impressive to watch a multi-national organization like this come together this quickly  Within a couple of weeks the team has jelled from two separate organizations that trained for their mission independently, who come from different cultures and speak different native languages into a fully integrated combat ready team that is poised to complete their mentoring and advising mission  Their dedication to the mission and each other is a testament to the professionalism and warrior ethos of every soldier and speaks volumes to the quality of the organizations they come from I am both ecstatic and proud to be a part of this team"

With the ceremony complete, all members of OMLT 50 loaded the cargo plane and proceeded to Ramstein Air Base, where they would soon leave for Northern Afghanistan and the beginning of their nine month deployment

By Capt Ryan Curl
Operational Mentoring Liaison Team
May 24, 2012

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