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U.S., Kyrgyz military partner for bilateral information exchange

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- It starts with a phone call - "Exercise, exercise, exercise ... there is a suspicious package at the post office."

The call sets off a standard chain of events.

But, when the call was received by first responders here Aug. 19 the response was not typical. American explosive ordnance disposal and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield-explosives response technicians arrived on scene with their Kyrgyz counterparts.

As an American EOD Airman donned his bomb suit so did a Kyrgyz Republic soldier. The duo approached the suspicious package together to determine its contents. After determining the package was not explosive but contained a white powdery substance, a joint CBRNE team was sent in to evaluate.

The suspicious package response was the climax of a daylong information exchange between U.S. and Kyrgyz Republic experts in the EOD and CBRNE fields.

"The first part of the event entailed Transit Center emergency management and EOD personnel providing a capability familiarization that included disaster response management techniques and EOD tools and equipment," said Maj. Christopher Johnson, Theater Security Cooperation Military Cooperation branch chief.

After a lunch celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Kyrgyz Republic's independence, the responders received the call notifying them of the package. The full gambit of base first responders participated in the hands-on portion of the information exchange.

Security forces Airmen guarded the perimeter of the scene as firefighters and medical responders stood by ready to assist.

"This was a multi-unit integrated Transit Center effort," said Johnson, deployed from the Pentagon. "The purpose of the CBRNE and EOD military-to-military information exchange is to familiarize Kyrgyz experts from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior Forces, with Air Force CBRNE and EOD tactics, techniques and procedures."

This is not the first time American and Kyrgyz EOD and CBRNE responders participated in this type of information exchange. Kyrgyz Maj. Zapira Shamuratora, Ministry of Emergency Services CBRNE squadron chief, was part of a similar event at the Transit Center in several years ago.

"In 2005, it was not this modern," she said. "The technology got better, the response times got better and more squadrons were called in to respond this time. These exercises are important in case there is ever a big catastrophe or emergency; we can both work side by side and jointly take care of the situation."

Both Shamuratora and Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hansen, 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of emergency management, felt the information exchange was a success.

"I think it went very well - a lot of interest and participation on the Kyrgyz part and a lot of interest on the U.S. Airmen's part," said Hansen, deployed here from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. "I think we work well together. Who knows, we might have to help them with a response off base and they'll know we're capable and we'll know they're capable of helping us."