LATACUNGA, Ecuador – Three members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Maintenance Group visited Latacunga, Ecuador, May 3 to 8 to provide aircraft maintenance training to the Ecuadorian Air Force as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
The Kentucky Air Guardsmen visited the country in response to the EAF’s request for training — sending a focused team of air advisors to train, advise, assess and equip the partner nation, said Chief Master Sgt. Tim Kenney, equipment maintenance flight chief for the group
“We received a request for assistance with their L-100 aircraft, the civilian variant of our C-130s,” Kenney said. “We focused on hydraulics, electronics, avionics, propulsion, structural and fuel system maintenance. We were able to go down to those shops and ask them specifically what they needed and what they were looking for. We have two more engagements planned with Ecuador in 2022, and when we come back, we can prepare them for any kind of training that they’re looking forward to.”
According to Lt. Col. Shawn Keller, deputy commander of the 123rd Mission Support group and wing liaison officer for the Kentucky National Guard’s State Partnership Program, the 123rd benefits from these exchanges.
“We get a lot out of it,” Keller said. They’re not as resource-rich as us, so they learn to fix things we ordinarily would replace, which is cool. We get to see how they can operate with a more modest budget and learn some efficiencies from how they do business.
“Our Airmen also get a chance to experience international engagement with a partner country. They learn about cultures and other Air Forces, and there are some things that those countries do really well. That sharing of information, that mixing of cultures, and that better understanding of the world outside of the lower 48 — I think that really helps make us into better Airmen.”
Master Sgt. Chris Larimore, a communication navigation defensive systems specialist for the 123rd Maintenance Group, praised the professionalism of the EAF.
“There were some pretty bright people there,” Larimore said. “They would take everything that you taught them like a sponge and you could tell that they were going to continue to use those things and improve on the stuff we would tell them. They were very professional.”
According to Kenny, the trip was a success in more ways than one.
“We exchanged gifts with each other, got to know them on a more personal level, talked about family and what they do,” he said. “We let them know we care about who they are as people.”
“When they’re happy and smiling, shaking your hand, asking you to come back — you know you made a difference,” Kenney continued. “We look forward to going back. Next time, we’ll bring a stronger team and we’ll be able to accomplish even more.”
The State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for over 25 years, and it now includes 85 partnerships with 93 nations around the globe. The program links a unique component of the Department of Defense — a state’s National Guard — with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship, Keller said.
Through SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals but also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.