BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Pa. – Pennsylvania Air National Guard leaders visited Lithuania May 22-24 to strengthen ties under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.
Col. Deane E. Thomey, 111th Attack Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Robert S. Ferguson, 111th ATKW senior enlisted leader, joined a group led by Brig. Gen. Michael J. Regan, the deputy adjutant general-air for Pennsylvania and commander of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
“The visit helped to strengthen the ties between the partners as we shared information from Joint Force Headquarters and each of our wings with the leaders of the Lithuanian Air Force,” said Thomey. “And in turn, they shared similar information on their Air Force and each of its commands.”
The Lithuanian Air Force has 11 aircraft — primarily helicopters and military transport — and about 1,000 professional military service members and non-military personnel. The Pennsylvania Air National Guard has about 4,000 members and more than 20 aircraft.
The Pennsylvania National Guard has partnered with Lithuania since 1993 as part of the State Partnership Program. Through this security cooperation program, the PANG has hosted Lithuanian personnel and participated in U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe and NATO exercises.
The partnership program allows the National Guard to partner with allied nations to strengthen relationships and interoperability, enhance military capabilities, and increase cultural awareness and professional skills among U.S. military personnel and their counterparts.
“As we visited their air base, air-to-ground bombing range and the construction site where our REDHORSE squadron is constructing a pre-engineered building, we identified several opportunities to grow our partnership by expanding the number of training deployments to build our relationship and interoperability,” Thomey said.
Thomey was referring to the 111th ATKW’s ongoing mission led by its 201st Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (REDHORSE), Detachment 1, to construct a building to support the Lithuanian military.
“We are grateful to the Pennsylvania National Guard for all the support to Lithuania’s military capability development. It is a direct contribution to a stronger Lithuanian security,” said Arvydas Anušauskas, Lithuanian minister of national defense, in a news release after a May 19 meeting with Maj. Gen. Mark J. Schindler, the adjutant general of Pennsylvania. “Next year, we will mark the 30th anniversary of partnership, which is immensely important to us. The United States remains a cornerstone security and defense guarantor in the Baltic region. We are also very glad to see PANG troops training in Lithuania.”
Thomey expects more training deployments for the 111th ATKW under the partnership, with more squadrons participating.
“Additionally, if Lithuania invests in unmanned aircraft, I would expect us to provide some of our experiences and lessons learned in conversion and operations regardless of which platform they may acquire,” he said.