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Security Forces instruct less than lethal tactics in El Salvador

Two soldiers of the Salvadoran Army practice striking with the extendable baton as members of the 157 Security Forces Squadron look on. San Salvador, El Salvador, March 13 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo courtesy MSgt. Dale Snowdon)

Two soldiers of the Salvadoran Army practice striking with the extendable baton as members of the 157 Security Forces Squadron look on. San Salvador, El Salvador, March 13 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo courtesy MSgt. Dale Snowdon)

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR -- Security forces personnel from the 157th Air Refueling Wing participated in an exchange of security skills with Salvadoran military and police forces March 12 through 16 here.

The specific skills the two groups demonstrated and practiced together were less than lethal tactics for handling suspects. These tactics include open hand techniques, use of the extendable baton, and handcuffing.

Master Sgt. Dale Snowdon, 157th Security Forces Squadron, described the goals of the subject matter expert exchange and the train-the-trainer concept that was utilized to reach a wider audience and broaden the impact of the training.

"Our ultimate goal was to give the Salvadorans more tools and non-lethal options. We wanted to teach this group these skills in order to teach others, that way they will be self sufficient after the exchange with us is complete," said Snowdon.

The five members were chosen for their years of military experience, multiple deployments, and proven abilities as instructors of security tactics, timing and procedures.

Two work full time in the civilian law enforcement field, including Master Sgt. Chuck Law who is a fourteen year veteran of the Stratham, New Hampshire police force and Staff Sgt. Merritt Webster who has been a law enforcement officer in Maine for eight years.

In addition to his Security Forces experience including deployments to Kuwait and Afghanistan, Tech Sgt. Angel Cardona is a fluent Spanish speaker who played the additional role of translator for the group.

Two of the SFS members who are not fluent in Spanish reflected on the communication process and how it developed over the course of the exchange.

"I never really experienced teaching a class that didn't speak my language, so this was a great way for me to learn too," said Webster. "Finding what works in teaching someone of a different nationality, different culture and language was a process that developed over a few days, but was easier than I thought."

"We would start with one simple step or technique, and once the group understood that, we would build on that to add another step, then another and another," said Law.

Since 2000, the New Hampshire National Guard and El Salvador have developed a mutually beneficial relationship through the State Partnership Program. The program promotes an exchange of military, civic, educational and business ideas.

Master Sgt. Snowdon described how this mission was especially meaningful for him.

"We focus so much locally, but now with the SPP program we are making a difference globally," said Snowdon. "It was great to be a part of that and to feel like you made a difference."

These Airmen further cemented the bond between the NH Guard and El Salvador and developed a respect for the Salvadoran's spirit, work ethic and willingness to learn.

This was the first trip to El Salvador for Staff Sgt. Webster, but he hopes it won't be his last.

"By the time we left, I felt a great kinship with the Salvadorans. They had a great sense of pride in their service, and that really struck me. It would be great to go back and continue the exchange."

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