By Air Force Maj. Dale Greer
123rd Airlift Wing
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (3/9/11) â€“ Five members of the Ecuadorian Air Force spent the past week touring the Kentucky Air National Guard Base to learn more about the challenge of moving an airlift wing from a decommissioned base to a new facility.
The Ecuadorian Air Forceâ€™s 11th Airlift Wing, a mixed-aircraft unit with C-130 Hercules assets, is slated to relocate to a new commercial airport in Quito, much as Kentuckyâ€™s 123rd Airlift Wing did in 1995 when it moved to a brand-new site at Louisville International Airport.
â€œThe theme of their visit is civil engineering and logistics subject-matter exchange, but itâ€™s driven by the fact that they are in the process of constructing a new civilian international airport in Quito, and they will be relocating the 11th Airlift Wing as part of that,â€ said Air Force Maj. Matt Groves, a pilot in the 123rd Airlift Wing.
â€œThey are very interested in looking at our facility, which is similarly sized in terms of personnel and aircraft operations. Theyâ€™re hoping to seek out some of the lessons we learned we when we relocated here in 1995 and also want to talk to our personnel about what they would do differently if they had the clean-slate opportunity the Ecuadorians are looking at now.â€
This is not the first time Kentucky Air Guardsmen have interacted with members of the Ecuadorian military. The two groups have been working together on a variety of projects since 1997 as part of the National Guard Bureauâ€™s State Partnership Program, an effort to foster closer ties with foreign military organizations around the world.
Member of the Kentucky Air Guardâ€™s 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron helped build schools and clinics in rural Ecuador in the late 1990s, for example. Today, the main focus has shifted to theater security cooperation.
â€œWeâ€™re now in our 14th year of conducting collaborative events with the Ecuadorians,â€ said Groves, who is director of the Kentucky National Guardâ€™s State Partnership Program with Ecuador.
â€œThe intent is that we design interchanges with input from multiple sources, including the U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, U.S. Southern Command and the adjutant general of Kentucky, so we can provide a symbiotic benefit to both parties.
â€œThe Ecuadorians certainly have a lot they can teach us. They have to deal with a challenging fiscal environment, which is something weâ€™re having to do more and more. And at the tactical level, they routinely operate in extremely difficult terrain, which makes it a major challenge to sustain operations.â€
Air Force Col. Greg Nelson, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, agrees that the program offers tremendous advantages to both parties.
â€œThe State Partnership Program is hugely beneficial to us, as well as the Ecuadorians,â€ he said. â€œWe can learn a lot from their best practices, just as they can learn from ours.â€
Groves said such bilateral cooperation is one way Kentucky Airmen are making a real difference around the world.
â€œThe State Partnership Program creates an opportunity for us to build strong personal and organizational relationships with our military counterparts in Ecuador,â€ he said. â€œI believe thatâ€™s one of the best ways the United States can conduct diplomacy in the region.â€