By Air Force 1st Lt. Aaron McCarthy
157th Air Refueling Wing
ILOPANGO, EL SALVADOR (1/30/13) - Airmen from the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing joined personnel from various United States federal agencies at the Ilopango Air Show here Jan. 26th and 27th.
Participating in the weekend's events were New Hampshire Air Guard air traffic controllers, aircrew flight equipment personnel as well as Army personnel from Joint Task Force Bravo, Air Force personnel from Air Force Southern Command, and employees of the United States Embassy in El Salvador.
The mission of the personnel at the air show was two-fold, to build relationships with the citizens of El Salvador, both military and civilian, and to attain important training in a different environment.
Personnel from the United States and El Salvador have been working together to build relationships that can facilitate joint missions in the future.
"The Citizen-Soldiers (and Airmen) of New Hampshire tend to have a very good view, not just in how to work in a military environment, but also in a civil environment," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Neil Taylor, United States Military Group Air Force section chief. "And when working with civil authorities, you use that as a distinct advantage in making all of your events a success."
"The El Salvadoran Air Force loves working with (the) New Hampshire (Air Guard)," said Taylor. "You have a great military to military relationship, and that shows, since your senior leadership is so involved down here. That really sets a great environment for cooperation at the lower levels."
The partnership benefits both countries to gain familiarity between military personnel and civilians, as well.
"You can see right now that there are a lot of civilians here and, just being in uniform as a New Hampshire Guardsmen, it means a lot," said Taylor. "They establish a personal relationship, they identify with you, and they see the great things that New Hampshire does here."
The air show also provided an opportunity for training for many members of the 157th ARW, including air traffic controllers and the flight crew.
"It helps us understand their culture and helps us understand what they are all about," said Air Force Master Sgt. David Poirier, 157th Aircrew Flight Equipment journeyman.
"This vital training mission allows us to familiarize ourselves with other airfields and how other countries operate," said Air Force Lt. Col. Strider Sulley, commander of the 260th Air Traffic Control Squadron.
The training that all Airmen receive on such missions goes beyond Air Force specialty or direct job skills.
"I think it is a great world experience for them to have, working in a civilian-military environment or a military-military environment," said Taylor. "It's not necessarily formal professional military education, but the benefits of it can help shape the [individual's] mentality and it gives New Hampshire (Guard members) the opportunity to work in foreign environments and make a difference in the geopolitical realm."
Missions like this strengthen the cultural awareness of the individuals while also strengthening the relationships and mission effectiveness of the two countries, which can have long-lasting benefits for all.
The New Hampshire National Guard has participated in subject matter expert exchanges and community relations events like the air show as part of the New Hampshire-El Salvador state partnership, which has existed since 2000.