From Guyana to Kenya, a Massachusetts Guardsman finds a taste of home


U.S. Army [Massachusetts National Guard] – Born in Guyana, a small country in South America, one Massachusetts National Guard Soldier received a rare opportunity to visit Africa during exercise Justified Accord 2024 in Kenya.

“I learned I was going to Kenya not too long ago,” said U.S. Army Spc. Denzil Paulsingh, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the 772nd Military Police Company, 211th Military Police Battalion, Massachusetts National Guard. “It is so different from what I thought Africa would be like. I’m blown away by the incredible scenery, people and food.”

Along with Swahili, Kenya’s official language is English, similar to Guyana, which is the only English-speaking country in South America. But according to Paulsingh, the similarities do not stop there.

“In Guyana, my family didn’t have running water, so we just grabbed a bucket, used a dipping spoon and splashed water on ourselves to get clean,” he shared. “The military field conditions here are very similar with camp-style showers; it definitely reminds me of back home.”

Paulsingh is currently taking part in U.S. Africa Command‘s largest military exercise in East Africa, running from Feb. 26 – March 7. Led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), and hosted in Kenya, this year’s exercise incorporates more than 1,000 service members and units from 23 nations.

The Massachusetts National Guard shares a State Partnership Program with the Kenya Defence Forces, dating back to 2015, and frequently conducts military exchanges where Soldiers share best practices in various military occupational specialties.

At JA24, the 772nd MP Co. is the main training element from the U.S., bringing over 100 military police who take part in daily exercises such as traffic control point training, detainee operations and other battle drills, like reacting to enemy contact.

“The KDF MPs have been very professional, not to mention super hospitable and welcoming,” said Paulsingh.

The purpose of JA24 is to increase multinational interoperability in support of humanitarian assistance, disaster response and crisis response operations. Paulsingh shared that this is a true exchange; he is very impressed with the way the KDF trains and how the two militaries learn from each other everyday.

“When it comes to their fundamentals of military policing, detainee operations and providing cover fire as a fellow Soldier bounds forward, the KDF have shown great skill,” said Paulsingh. “Their communication with one another is very good.”

Paulsingh also discovered an unexpected twist upon arrival to Kenya. While he already knew this would be a multinational exercise, he did not realize another native of Guyana would join him in Africa.

“Guyana is such a small country, so it’s amazing to think there would be two of us at the same exercise, on the other side of the world,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Simone (Sam) Loncke, force protection specialist at JA24 and antiterrorism noncommissioned officer in charge at SETAF-AF.

Loncke has been with SETAF-AF for over two years and says she considers it a blessing because she gets to travel all over the African continent. She especially enjoys coming to Kenya because it’s a great opportunity to train with KDF partners and build relationships.

“I was excited to know I had a fellow Soldier here who was also born in Guyana,” said Loncke. “We both know where we come from and it’s great to see things in Kenya that remind us of home.”

While Paulsingh and Loncke share a native country in common, their roles at the exercise are somewhat different.

“I’m in charge of coordinating force protection throughout our Kenya area of operations,” said Loncke. “Certain areas require armed KDF escorts in order to protect exercise participants. It’s been a great experience working together with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and KDF partners to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Loncke moves regularly between exercise venues, ensuring force protection in Nairobi and other locations in Kenya, while Paulsingh and his fellow military police stay at the newly constructed Counter Insurgency Terrorism and Stability Operations Training Centre based in Nanyuki. The training center, which continues to add new buildings to its footprint, is the result of trilateral cooperation between Kenya, the U.K. and the U.S.

“The view of Mt. Kenya from here at CITSO is mind-blowing,” said Paulsingh.

He also shared that one of his main tasks is to document his unit’s multinational training. While taking pictures, he asks fellow Soldiers how they are doing, if they need anything and works to get them what they need in order to make their lives better out in the field.

“I just got back in August from deployment to Kuwait, so I know life out in the field, staying on cots in tents, can be tough,” he said. “Having a support system both here and back home is super important.”

Loncke also shared that she enjoys supporting Soldiers during the exercise. This is her second year at Justified Accord and she hopes to be back again next year

“I have learned many different things from exercises like JA24, but the most important is being able to depend on each other in a time of need,” said Loncke. “I know if we can do it during training, we can do it in a real-world scenario because it now becomes muscle memory.”

Paulsing agreed and shared that he checks in with his wife back in Dennisport, Mass. on a regular basis, making sure she and their two-year-old daughter are doing okay.

“Kenya and the people here are amazing. But I really need and appreciate the support from back home,” he said.

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