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NEWS | July 5, 2023

Air Guard, Thai Counterparts Plan Air Refueling Engagement

By Joseph Siemandel, Joint Force Headquarters - Washington National Guard

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - Leaders from the Royal Thai Air Force and Washington Air National Guard wrapped up the final planning conference on what could be a historic engagement in the Kingdom of Thailand later this year.

“There are a lot of eyes on this exercise that we are planning,” said Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, commander of the Washington Air National Guard. “The opportunity to have two National Guard states participate together and work with our counterparts in the Royal Thai Air Force on a first-of-its-kind air refueling exercise is exciting for all involved.”

Earlier this year, leaders from three organizations began planning a potential air refueling exercise involving the Washington Air National Guard’s 141st Air Refueling Wing, the Oregon National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing and a Royal Thai Air Force fighter group. The idea went from thought to paper to practical concept and now likely execution.

“We appreciate this relationship with the Washington Air National Guard and are very excited about this exercise,” said Group Capt. Anurruk Romnarak, Royal Thai Air Force. “This should be a very enjoyable exercise, good experience and one that will be historic for both partners.”

While the focus of the conference for the staff officers was the air refueling exercise, the partners also discussed future training and how Airmen from the 141st Air Refueling Wing, 194th Wing and Western Air Defense Sector could support the State Partnership Program objectives in the Kingdom of Thailand.

“Events like this make us grow better and closer together,” said Welsh.

During the visit, Washington Air Guard members and Royal Thai Air Force officers discussed future engagements in smaller working groups about operations, logistics and administration or protocol. The group also toured the Western Air Defense Sector, which conducted its first Air Defense Exchange with the Royal Thai Air Force in March 2023, learned about Washington’s Air Support Operations Group and took a flight to Fairchild Air Force Base to discuss the future exercise with the wing’s leadership.

The group also attended a Tacoma Rainiers baseball game and had dinner at Welsh’s house.

Since 2002, the Washington National Guard and the Kingdom of Thailand have been partners in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. They have held exchanges focused on close air support, medical aid, cybersecurity and defense and conducted numerous Airmen-to-Airmen conversations.

“These types of partnerships are critical to our national defense strategy. Through engagements with our Royal Thai counterparts, both in the Air and Army, we are building the trust that is required to ensure both our nations are prepared for threats,” said Welsh. “This program provides a maximum value and often at an extremely low cost, and that happens because of the creativity and ingenuity our Guard members bring to it. This is the true power of the program.”

The State Partnership Program has been successfully building relations for 30 years and now includes 88 partnerships with 100 nations around the globe.



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