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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | July 8, 2024

Michigan Guard, Latvia Collaborate on Airfield Capabilities

By Staff Sgt. Bethany Rizor, 110th Wing

LIELFVARDE, Latvia - Airmen from the Michigan Air National Guard are on a critical mission in Latvia during the first two weeks of June, collaborating to bolster the capabilities of Lielvarde Airfield to manage military training airspace and defend against potential threats. 

The joint initiative aims to strengthen transatlantic defense alliances and foster unity among allied nations. The Michigan National Guard and Latvia have been partners in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership program since 1993.

Amid evolving security challenges in the Baltic region, the mission holds particular significance, emphasizing the importance of airspace integrity and readiness. Through joint planning, technical consultations, and hands-on training, MIANG personnel are providing essential support to modernize Latvia’s airfield infrastructure and enhance airspace management.

Senior Master Sgt. Brett Trisko from the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center collaborated with 1st Lt. Oskurrs Kuriss, chief of flight support with the Latvian Armed Forces, to establish procedures for unmanned aerial systems operations.

The mission optimizes training and defensive capabilities through process refinement and airspace reconfiguration, aligning with Latvia’s strategic defense objectives. 

“We have established procedures that allow us to incorporate necessary changes swiftly,” Trisko said.

The MIANG has expertise spanning nine airspaces and supporting multiple aircraft, bringing valuable insights to their Latvian counterparts.

“Our goal is to create a secure and efficient training environment for NATO forces,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Lafountain, airspace manager at Alpena CRTC.

Master Sgt. Don Witt, Alpena CRTC weapons director liaison, coordinated with Latvian counterparts to assess current capabilities. Both parties aim to design future training to support initiatives, including defensive counter air and understanding typical fighter tactics.

“Latvian controllers are extremely proficient at ‘close’ positive control techniques, and we aim to create opportunities for ‘loose’ positive control,” Witt explained.

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sutton, 127th Mission Support Group security forces team lead from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, met with force protection counterparts to familiarize his team with Latvian security needs, evaluate security infrastructure and seek areas for improvement. 

“During our assessment we explored opportunities of alternate locations for training,” said Sutton. “Establishing another site would set the stage for future ACE and joint operations.”

During joint inspections of potential airfields, airfield management and security forces personnel evaluated facilities and conducted security assessments, ensuring readiness for future operations. The team also observed and commended Latvia’s precision in executing hot pit refueling, underscoring their capability for high-tempo operations.

“Exercises like hot pit refueling provide invaluable training opportunities, showcasing readiness in dynamic environments,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Stanton, airfield manager with the 127th Operations Support Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Myers, emergency manager from the 110th Civil Engineer Squadron, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, collaborated closely with Latvian counterparts to discuss training equipment and review emergency response procedures. This highlighted advancements in Latvia’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear program.

“This partnership underscores the enduring solidarity between Latvia and the United States,” Myers said.