Just over a dozen soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard spent last month rolling up their sleeves with the Colombian army, helping foreign soldiers learn to maintain and repair military equipment, according to The Associated Press.

Fifteen soldiers from the Guard's 742nd Support Maintenance Company, based out of the McCrady Training Center at Fort Jackson in Columbia, helped Colombian soldiers by using their smartphones and older technical journals to fix and help upkeep everything from night vision goggles and small caliber weapons to armored vehicles. It was the second time the mechanic unit of soldiers from South Carolina trekked to South American nations to provide help and support. This time, the soldiers stopped in Melgar, a city just 60 miles outside of Bogota, the capitol city of Colombia. 

It is all part of the State Partnership Program put together by the National Guard, which has been operating for over 20 years, according to a description on the military group's website. During that time, the program has brought soldiers to 74 different countries and facilitated 68 partnerships with friendly nations. The cooperation helps support defense of security goals and forges relationships with foreign allies through a mutually beneficial relationship, according to the National Guard. It also helps Colombian forces maintain work patterns and repair systems that help keep their equipment ready and reliable.

Working through cultural barriers
The experience took National Guard soldiers out of their element in many different ways. For one, military hardware is cycled to troops at the front lines in a way that's different from what U.S. soldiers were accustomed to. While maintenance soldiers are deployed with combat units in the U.S. to explain functional details about the equipment they have serviced to soldiers in combat scenarios, Colombian soldiers fix gear so it can be sent to the front lines, leaving less opportunity for debriefing and more leeway to future mechanical failures.

Additionally, members of the National Guard often had to work through language barriers with Colombian troops and with Colombian equipment manuals. The former language barrier between soldiers was overcome through the use of Spanish-English smartphone translation applications, one of the soldiers told the AP. The manuals, on the other hand, had to be translated at times, but often the National Guard soldiers could look at the graphics on the page in order to understand what to do. The US mechanics had less trouble working with Colombian technology as it was very similar to American hardware, according to a Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System article written by Maj. Cindi King.

Working with wounded warriors
According to accounts from the National Guard soldiers, it was also motivating to work with some of the troops who had been injured in combat. The Colombian wounded warriors were assigned maintenance duty as part of their rehabilitation process. Despite recovery challenges, US forces called the Colombian troops hardworking.

Within the past year, members of the Colombian military have also visited South Carolina to see helicopters flown by the National Guard as part of the partnership program.