CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – When building relationships with a new partner, body language and casual conversations are just as important as the information shared. That’s why there was added excitement about the fourth annual Airmen-to-Airmen talks between the Washington Air National Guard and the Malaysian Air Force, the first face-to-face meeting between the two organizations in nearly two years.
“We are excited to get back to working with our Malaysia partners and growing our friendship and partnership,” said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general. “I know there are some exciting things we are already doing and some things we are talking about doing moving forward.”
Officially becoming partners through the National Guard State Partnership Program in August 2017, the relationship with the Malaysian Armed Forces was moving forward quickly until the global COVID-19 pandemic halted all travel between the two nations. All engagements had to shift to a virtual setting, allowing the relationship to continue but not always flourish.
“Going virtual was not ideal, but it was what we had at the time,” said Lt. Col. Keith Kosik, director of the Washington National Guard State Partnership Program. “Going back to in-person engagements has helped move the program forward again.”
Currently, the Washington Air National Guard has a robust set of engagements with the Malaysian Air Force, conducting engagements in Joint Terminal Attack, Defensive Cyber and Air Domain Awareness. This year’s talks focused on expanding the subject matter exchanges to include air refueling and medical exchanges, primarily with the 141st Air Refueling Wing.
“We know that we share some common threats, and if we can work through those threats together, it will only make us stronger,” said Daugherty.
“We are excited to restart in-person Airmen-to-Airmen talks,” said Brig. Gen. Johan Deutscher, the director of the joint staff and lead Air National Guard officer for the event. “Our goal has been and continues to be that we have Airmen that can work together, serve together, grow old together and strengthen relationships together.”
Those sentiments were shared by Maj. Gen. Dato Zulkifli, assistant chief of staff for operations and strategy for the Royal Malaysian Air Force and lead delegate for the talks.
“We want to thank the Washington Guard for their full support in this program," Zulkifli said. "We believe this program will lead to lifelong friendships. We want to look at all opportunities to work together and learn and improve through these engagements together.”