INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, and the Indiana National Guard hosted senior leaders of Slovak Republic to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Partnership for Peace Program on May 17.
Slovak Republic ambassador to the United States Peter Kmec and the chief of Slovak Defense, Lt. Gen. Milan Maxim, headed the senior leaders' delegation.
The Hoosier-Slovak partnership is part of a National Guard Bureau initiative that links states and territories with military members of other countries around the world for the purpose of supporting the security cooperation objectives of the geographic Combatant Commands.
The Indiana National Guard and the Slovak armed forces began a relationship in 1994. The two military organizations have shared more than 200 joint events over the course of the past two decades. In that time the Slovak Republic became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
"We became partners, we trained together, we worked together," said Umbarger of the celebration, "We've come to know each other well as allies and this is just a special day."
The results and achievements of the partnership include the transition of the Slovak armed forces from a conscript service to an all volunteer force, an enhanced role of women in the Slovak military, the creation of a noncommissioned officer corps and the cultural exchanges between members of the Indiana Guard and the Slovak forces.
"We want to celebrate 20 years of cooperation and results," Maxim said.
In 2011, the first of four joint Operational Mentor Liaison Team rotations deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. 1st. Class Michael Bacon deployed to Afghanistan in August 2012 as part of Operational Mentor Liaison Team as a mentor advisor for an Afghan military unit.
"This was one of the best and enjoyable deployments that I've taken part of," Bacon said. "We succeeded in achieving our mission by training hand in hand, while adapting to each other's cultures, with the same purpose in mind."
As the two militaries strive for unity of purpose, the Slovak leaders hope for the same in their communities. Ambassador Kmec visited with the Indianapolis mayor and leaders at Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis to discuss possible business ventures between the two countries.
"As our two militaries have created a very strong foundation of bilateral ties, we're trying to build on this very intense cooperation also in the civilian sector," said Kmec, "we're looking for ways of cooperation in the area of innovation and trade."
While in Indiana, the Slovak delegation attended different commemorative events around the state, which included a visit and tour of Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, the 181st Intelligence wing and the Clabber Girl Museum in Terre Haute and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Other members of the Slovak delegation included Maj. Gen. Martin Babiak, Slovak defense military and air attaché, Zuzana Babiakova, and Brig. Gen. Ondřej Novosad, land forces commander.
The culminating event celebrating the landmark anniversary was a military ceremony held at the Indiana War Memorial in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 17.
Gov. Mike Pence, State Sen. Tom Wyss and Maj. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, the special assistant to the National Guard Bureau vice chief of staff attended the ceremony.
A formation of more than 200 Soldiers and Airmen represented all units belonging to the Indiana National Guard. The two-hour ceremony featured formal honors and military traditions, starting with cannons firing 19 volleys in honor of the governor and music performed by the 38th Infantry Division band. Static displays represented some of the equipment and fighting capabilities of the Indiana Guard.
"As we reflect on this milestone of achievement over this last 20 years of cooperation," said Col. Todd Townsend, Indiana National Guard vice chief of staff, "we look forward to an enduring partnership that continues to expand our relationship and knowledge sharing."