PHOENIX – The Arizona National Guard hosted a delegation of military officer and enlisted personnel from the Kazakh Ministry of Defense during a State Partnership Program-sponsored visit Jul. 19 – 26. The visit came within weeks of the U.S. government's formal renewal of its partnership with Kazakhstan, extending the 24-year-old legacy of cooperation for five more years.
"This five-year renewal formally recognizes that our relationship with Kazakhstan is mutually beneficial and that it should continue," said Army Maj. Kevin Budak, the Arizona National Guard State Partnership Program coordinator. "This visit is another example of how our militaries working together improve the professionalism and skills of both partners."
During the five-day visit, the Kazakh delegation met with leadership from the Arizona National Guard's 98th Aviation Troop Command, to discuss and exchange ideas concerning non-commissioned officers, NCOs in aviation and aviation maintenance processes. This included talking about the NCO corps' roles, responsibilities, expectations and authorities in aviation. The delegation also toured training facilities and ranges in Phoenix, Marana and Camp Navajo, focusing on the company- and battalion-level operations in an aviation brigade.
"During these exchanges, the Soldiers from Arizona learn quite a bit about the military and culture in Kazakhstan. At the end of the week, both sides leave with ideas that help make us stronger," Budak said. "The different perspectives really help challenge common assumptions."
Some of the highlights of the Kazakh trip included discussions on aviation maintenance operations, battalion and company level NCO responsibilities, aviation NCO development and tours of various National Guard facilities. The delegation also had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon.
"This gives us both the opportunity to see the value of the NCO corps and what the NCO corps brings to the table in regards to training and the way NCOs relate with officers in the execution of missions based on commander's guidance," said Master Sgt. Lyle Bringhurst, the senior aviation operations sergeant for 2/285th Assault Helicopter Battalion.
Previous partnership visits to Arizona included Army military police operations, vehicle maintenance support, and non-commission officer development programs. Members of the Arizona Guard have also visited Kazakhstan to participate in Exercise Steppe Eagle, an annual multinational training exercise focused on peacekeeping and peace support operations.
The State Partnership Program began in 1993 between the United States and the newly independent former Soviet Republics. Since then the program has grown significantly to over 70 partnerships worldwide, with Arizona and Kazakhstan being one of the original 13 partnerships in the program.