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25-year partnership boosts more than relationships for NEANG

By Tech. Sgt. Rana Franklin | Air National Guard | Sept. 10, 2018

PARDUBICE AIR BASE, Czech Republic – During the 25th anniversary of their state partnership with the Czech Republic, the 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard, and their Czech Republic Air Force counterparts joined together to participate in Exercise Ample Strike 2018 at Pardubice Air Base, Czech Republic.

The states of Nebraska and Texas are State Partnership Program (SPP) partners with the Czech Republic, the only shared partnership in the National Guard.

"Even with the shared partnership with Texas, we still enjoy a robust relationship with the Czech Republic," said Col. John D. Williams, 155th ARW Operations Group commander and former U.S. bilateral affairs officer to the Czech Republic. "We have a high exercise tempo with the Czech Republic, with sometimes as many as 20 small exercises within a year.

The ANG has 75 partnerships around the world to promote access, enhance military capabilities and interoperability, and improve the principles of responsible governance. It also brings an expanded familiarity to circumstances many see in the global theater that can't be replicated at home station.

"Our state partnership broadens our scope of understanding and familiarity," said Lt. Col. Edward Conner, KC-135R instructor pilot, 155th ARW. "So when it really counts, and say, a unique accent comes over the flight frequency, it's simply that, unique, as opposed to unfamiliar."

The 155th ARW participates in several exchanges with the Czech Republic military throughout the year, both at their home station and in the Czech Republic. The high operations tempo shared between the partnering units speaks to the strong and enduring relationship between Nebraska and the Czech Republic.

"Our training with them is fully integrated, spanning almost every job function," stated Williams. "After getting off to somewhat of a slow start in the early stages of the partnership, we've really ramped up the program and made it something really special."

Exercises such as Ample Strike not only provide vital opportunities for states and their partnering nations to work together, but also expands opportunities for Total Force training between active duty, Reserve, ANG and our NATO allies and partner nations' militaries to improve standardization and working relationships.

Ample Strike is a Czech Republic-led exercise with joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) and aircraft conducting day and night operations with friendly land maneuver elements and simulated contested environments to ensure interoperability.

"All of our participants get to reach back to these two weeks of intense training and apply what they've learned to ensure mission success," Conner said.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Parker, in-flight refueling specialist, 155th ARW, intends to do just that. Ample Strike is the second premier exercise he has participated in with the Czech Republic and with a deployment on the horizon, the partnership program allows Parker to train with an intensity similar to a real world operation.

"Training in an environment with multiple allied aircraft, from multiple partnering nations is an experience that isn't easily simulated domestically," Parker reflected. "These experiences are invaluable and are only made possible through the State Partnership Program and the relationship we've built with our sister units."