NEWS | April 11, 2012

Armenian minister of defense visits Kansas National Guard

By Spc. Amber Stuckert, Army National Guard Kansas National Guard

TOPEKA, Kan. - Seyran Ohanyan, the Minister of Defense for the Republic of Armenia, visited the state of Kansas March 20. During the brief visit, Ohanyan and select members of his delegation toured multiple Kansas National Guard facilities, as well as the state capitol.

The adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard, Army Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, hosted breakfast, where he and Ohanyan discussed the partnership growth between Kansas and Armenia. Tafanelli noted that it is a great honor to have the Minister of Defense visit Kansas.

"We value this partnership and this is a great opportunity to solidify relationships that we have built over the past nine years," Tafanelli said.

Following briefings at the state Joint Force Headquarters, Ohanyan met with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who signed a proclamation reaffirming the commitment to the relationship between the people of the state of Kansas and the Republic of Armenia. Ohanyan also met with leaders from both the Kansas House and Senate.

Brownback hosted a luncheon for the minister at the governor's residence to honor the visit. Statewide elected officials, judicial and legislative leadership, as well as the governor's cabinet, attended. Ohanyan provided an overview of his country and took questions from the guests.

Later, gifts were exchanged to commemorate the minister's inaugural visit to the state.

From the governor's residence, the minister traveled to the 190th Air Refueling Wing at Forbes Field, where a representative from Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth discussed ongoing professional military education initiatives with Armenia. Ohanyan also toured the Expeditionary Medical System warehouse.

Kansas is one of three locations in the United States to store and maintain mobile medical hospitals for domestic use in case of a large natural or manmade disaster. Armenia purchased an EMEDS unit in 2005 and Kansas has been working with Armenia since then to assist them in developing their own regional medical response capability.

Kansas has been partnered with Armenia since 2003 through the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program to foster mutually beneficial military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian relationships.

Like most SPPs, the Republic of Armenia and the state of Kansas were partnered due to their similarities. Both are landlocked and have a similar agricultural climate, said Lt. Col. Brent Salmans, the director of the Kansas National Guard State Partnership Program.

"The program is meant to be a bilateral relationship between Kansas and Armenia," Salmans said. "We start with the National Guard and Ministry of Defense and then try to branch out to other parts of society."

Members of the Kansas National Guard, as well as representatives from law enforcement, education, medicine, agriculture and other professions, have visited Armenia several times and representatives from various Armenian military and civilian organizations have come to Kansas for training, discussions and other events.

Soldiers of the Armenian Peacekeeping Brigade have deployed to serve alongside Soldiers from the United States and other coalition forces.