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First SPP exchange of 2017 provides chance to build partnership

A group performs a traditional Thai drumming demonstration as part of the MDMP SME Exhange at the Surasi Military Base, Kanchanaburi, Kingdom of Thailand on Jan. 20, 2017. 


Loud bangs come from a small stage at the front of the room. A group performs a traditional Thai drumming demonstration while others display sword fighting techniques for the group of foreign visitors in the audience. Lt. Col. Paul Sellars, commander, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment looks on in amazement while enjoying the festivities before the first subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) with the Royal Thai Army of 2017.

“This wasn’t my first trip to Thailand for the Army, but first time working directly with the Royal Thai Army,” said Sellars. “I have worked with more than 30 different foreign militaries. The Thais are extremely professional and dedicated to the work that we were accomplishing.”

Sellars and four fellow officers from the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) took part in a Military Decision Making Process (MDMP) SMEE with the 9th Division, Royal Thai Army (RTA) from January 20 to 28, 2017 at the Surasi Military Base, Kanchanaburi, Kingdom of Thailand. 


Lt. Col. Paul Sellars, commander, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment presents a tomahawk to Maj. Gen. Vuttiehai, commander, 9th Division, Royal Thai Army. 


Although focused on MDMP, the visit was part of the strategic goal of building a partnership between the Royal Thai Army and the Washington National Guard and exchanging knowledge, techniques and experience.

For 15 years the Washington National Guard and the Kingdom of Thailand have had a formal partnership through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program (SPP).

SPP is a Department of Defense joint security cooperation program in support of the Combatant Commanders' security cooperation objectives and Ambassadors' Integrated Country Strategies. It matches a state’s National Guard with a partner country to promote enduring, mutually beneficial security relationships with allies and friendly nations.

“It gives our soldiers a different perspective on operations and gives them an opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences with each other that makes our young leaders more well-rounded,” said Sellars. “The RTA will be conducting a disaster relief exercise later this year, so they shared a lot about their process for working disaster relief and demonstrated how they are organized to conduct relief operations.”

Through the program, partner SMEEs can range from disaster preparedness and crisis management, medical and engineering activities to leadership development and military modernization. 


The 9th Division, Royal Thai Army stand in formation before performing a capabilities demonstration. 

The MDMP SMEE provided the 81st SBCT and RTA representatives a platform to successfully collaborate and conduct mission analysis while exchanging techniques and practices from both nations.

“We covered the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) with a focus on a disaster relief scenario,” said Sellars

More importantly, it allowed both units a chance to gain a greater understanding of the other’s culture and improve relationships between the nations for future exchanges. 

“I am looking forward to helping build a strong partnership between the 81st SBCT and the 9th Division in the future,” said Sellars. 


Group from the Washington National Guard and Royal Thai Army poses for a photo with cultural performers after completing a successful subject matter exchange.