By Joshua Cohen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
For the first time, a conventional U.S. Army National Guard unit conducted training with Royal Saudi Land Forces Special Forces Instructors at the Royal Saudi Land Forces Mountain Warfare School.
During multiple weeklong training iterations throughout October and November, approximately 70 Task Force Avalanche Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 172 Infantry (Mountain), and 30 RSLF Soldiers sharpened their mountain warfare skills.
According to Task Force Avalanche’s operation officer, Maj. Garion Ford, training included mountain casualty evacuation, fixed rope and cliff traverse, rappelling, and tactical situation training.
During the exercises, Soldiers of both nations fully integrated.
“The Training was fantastic on both sides and we stationed three linguists at the RSLF Mountain Warfare School to build rapport with our hosts,” Ford explained. “Our linguists did amazing work and even participated in the training,” Ford explained.
Ford credited Capt. Robert Dorey as the task forces liaison and lead climb leader Sgt. 1st Class William Thibeault for their efforts during the training. “Their ability to develop relationships with our hosts helped with this being the first time a conventional U.S. unit had trained in concert with the RSLF SF at their school.”
The Soldiers of Task Force Avalanche enjoyed the chance to take part in the training.
“It was hands-down an amazing experience to train with the Saudi Arabian force and see how they do their training,” said Staff Sgt. Alan Bouffard, multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer, HHC 3-172 IN (MTN). “They also got to see how we do things and training together was one of the highlights of my deployment.”
While the training took place at the mountain school, Ford said Task Force Avalanche Soldiers provided advice on mountain techniques requiring less equipment that was easier to use.
“We try to carry very little specialized equipment and what we do carry should have more than one function to cut down on weight carried by Soldiers.”
This training was also beneficial for U.S. Army Soldiers who have not been to the Vermont school yet.
“This was a great experience to learn these skills before attending our Mountain Warfare School in Jericho," said Bouffard. “I’ve wanted to attend the course in Vermont for a while and doing this here will be a benefit when I can attend in the future.”
Ford said the initial training at the mountain school leads the way for follow-on units to continue building relationships with RSLF Soldiers.
“This training event showcased our people as Soldier diplomats building and strengthening the ties between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Ford. ”"It was a great training cycle to refresh our mountain skills.”