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Albania deployment sees many firsts
Story and graphic by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, 177FW/PA

TIRANA, ALBANIA - - New Jersey National Guard units have been instructing the Albanian military for 15 years.

During that time, there have been a number of firsts, but none have been as significant or as far-reaching as the deployment of 33 New Jersey Guardsmen to Tirana, the capital of Albania.

Eighteen of the Guardsmen were police officers, New Jersey State Troopers, or state corrections officers. A first, since these traditional Guardsmen were specifically chosen because they were in law enforcement.

Senior Airman Christopher Palm (l) watches as Tech. Sgt. Scott Krebs (third from left) prepares to give a tactical baton demonstration to a group of Albanian military police. Photo by 1st Sgt Raymond Hoffman, 508th Military Police Company.

Two units were deployed. This alone is not unusual except one was Air guard and the other was Army Guard. In a first of its kind deployment, eighteen 108th Air refueling Wing Security Forces Airmen and fifteen 508th Military Police Soldiers deployed together from June 7-21.

During that deployment, the New Jersey Citizen Soldiers and Airmen jointly trained 130 of their counterparts in the Albanian Military Police Battalion Unit Number 4002, another first.

“It’s a great example of the two services integrating and working together to train the Albanian MPs,” said 108th Security Forces Airman 1st Class Jaime Mazza.


Airman 1st Class Jaime Mazza, left, 108th Security Forces, watches as two Albanian soldiers practice search techniques. Photo by 1st Sgt Raymond Hoffman, 508th Military Police Company.

Albanian MPs search 1st Sgt. Ray Hoffman, kneeling back, while 1st Lt. Matthew Zilinski, kneeling front, both with the 508th Military Police Company, waits the same treatment. Photo by Spc. Kristen Burns, 508th Military Police Company.

“Both units worked hand-in-hand to accomplish the assigned classes that the Albanian Military Police requested,” said 508th 1st Sgt. Raymond Hoffman, who serves as an Irvington Police sergeant. “They were extremely motivated to learn from us.”

The training itself was geared so the Albanians would be familiar with United States Army and Air Force military police and security forces doctrine.

“They are definitely working toward joint missions with us,” said Mazza.

The New Jersey Soldiers and Airmen taught the rules of engagement and escalation of force, convoy operations, civil disturbance and crowd control, checkpoint security, vehicle search, accident investigations, military operations on urban terrain, rules of engagement and self aid and buddy care.

“We geared their training so that if they deployed to a forward location with a NATO unit, they could fit right in,” said Senior Master Sgt. David Beun, 108th Security Forces noncommissioned officer in charge of standards and evaluation and also a patrolman with the Mount Laurel Township Police force. “I can definitely see the benefits from our being here. Their exposure to us will help them adapt to NATO.”
Each day the Soldiers and Airmen would cover the different subjects. Some areas the Soldiers would be the lead instructors; in others the Airmen would be in charge.

Spc. James O’Brien, an MP with the 508th, instructed the Albanians on checkpoints and cordon searches.

“I can see more benefits from our efforts here than other places I have been deployed.” Senior Master Sgt. David Beun, 108th Security Forces

Senior Airman George Michalski, left, 108th Security Forces and Staff Sgt. Derrick Luciano, second from right, 508th Military Police Company, are searched during the skills demonstration on June 20. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, 177FW/PA.

Staff Sgt. Danny Sanchez, center, watches as Spc. Jirigarthe Cruz, left, both with the 508th Military Police Company, copies down contact information so they can stay in touch with their Albanian friends. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, 177FW/PA.

“It was great putting my skills to work for another country,” said O’Brien.

“The instructors made the learning easy,” said 1st Lt. Armand Basholli, Engineer Company Deputy Commander with the Albanian Rapid reaction Brigade. “As they spoke, they also gave demonstrations of what they were talking about.”

“They put 110 percent into their learning,” said Hoffman. “They have the heart and spirit to get the job done.”

At the end of the training, the Albanian MPs gave a demonstration of the skills they had learned to Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the Adjutant General; Gazmend Oketa, the Albanian Minister of Defense, and the Albanian military leadership. During the exercise, the MPs demonstrated crowd control methods, checkpoint operations, room clearing and extraction of wounded personnel.

“I can see more benefits from our efforts here than other places I have been deployed,” said Beun. “They really appreciate us being here.”

Following the demonstration, New Jersey’s top performing Soldiers and Airmen were recognized by the Albanian leadership. In turn, Maj. Gen. Rieth coined the top Albanian soldiers.

The final first came when it came time to return home. Instead of boarding a commercial airliner, the New Jersey Soldiers and Airmen flew home in a KC-
135R Stratotanker, courtesy of the 108th Air Refueling Wing.

This was the first time a New Jersey Air Guard unit provided airlift to Albania. And it certainly won’t be the last first in this partnership.

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Volume 34 Number 5 Staff / Information
(c) 2009 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs