BUDAPEST, Hungary – A delegation from the Ohio National Guard visited Hungary in June to mark another successful year during the annual State Partnership Program capstone event.
Ohio National Guard members visit annually to highlight the partnership between Ohio and Hungary, which began in 1993. This year’s capstone event focused on topics including cyber operations, COVID-19 response, weapons capabilities, tactical vehicles and recruiting, with meetings between key members from the ONG and Hungarian Defence Forces (HDF).
“Friendships are the foundation of this partnership,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general. “It’s about not just learning from each other and making sure that we can operate together but knowing we can trust in that. It’s a powerful deterrence for anybody that may come against one of our partner nations.”
Harris toured many facilities during the capstone visit and interacted with various HDF officials, including Lt. Gen. Zsolt Sándor, HDF deputy chief of defense, Maj. Gen. Tibor Bozó, HDF chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Prof. Dr. László Kovács, inspector of the HDF Cyber Inspectorate, Brig. Gen. Gábor Lőrincz, commander of the HDF’s 25th Infantry Brigade. The emphasis of many of the meetings included discussions of how the HDF continues to pursue a major reform in creating a smaller, leaner, more modern deployable force.
“We got a chance to see some of the new equipment, which is fantastic. The Hungarian Defence Forces are making significant investments in modernized equipment and getting away from the old Soviet stuff that they have in their inventory,” Harris said. “It was good to get eyes on that and exciting to see their plans for the future.”
Added Brig. Gen. Zoltán Apáti, HDF deputy commander: “Year by year, we try to develop our cooperation and show how the Hungarian Defence Forces and the Ohio National Guard can work together to train our soldiers, to do common operations and develop our defense forces.”
Developing interoperability with partners and allies is the goal for every State Partnership Program pairing between a U.S. state National Guard and foreign military. Interoperability is defined as any initiative, agreement, or operation that improves the ability to operate effectively and efficiently as a component of the joint force and as a member or leader of an alliance or coalition across the range of military operations. Through the State Partnership Program, Ohio and Hungary have been able to nurture their relationship by conducting exchanges focusing on their collective military strengths and best practices in air and land forces interoperability, disaster management and professional development.
“When we look at the tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the concern the other eastern European countries have, we know we are going to have to count on NATO if there are further incursions,” Harris said. “So we need NATO to be strong, but, most importantly, the strengths of the partnerships and the trust built with this partnership just helps us know that we can rely on each other.”
This year’s capstone event also marked 29 years of partnership between Ohio and Hungary. Through this partnership, the foundation has been set to expand relationships further in the coming decades, including military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian interactions. The relationship and friendship enhance joint training, build cultural understanding and showcase the accomplishments of nations collaborating to achieve mutual security goals and the ability to work together to address international threats.
“When I can look the leaders of the HDF in the eyes and say, ‘Ohio will be there for you,’ a handshake matters because those are people we know and trust and we would never let down,” Harris said.