CHEYENNE - The Wyoming National Guard hosted an Aviation Familiarization (FAM) Event in Cheyenne, Sept. 13-25, in which members of the Tunisian Air Force participated. Tunisia is Wyoming's state partner for the National Guard's State Partnership Program (SPP). The two have been partners since 2004. This event is the first time in 9 months that the partners have been able to get together for a subject matter expert exchange.
The SPP has been going strong for over 25 years. As of June 2020, it now includes 82 partnerships with 89 countries around the world, with 15 from Africa alone. The SPP is a security cooperation program managed by the National Guard Bureau. States are partnered with foreign nations based on size, location and mission. Tunisia shares similarities with Wyoming including tourism, economic interests and military equipment.
"The State Partnership Program is a DOD security cooperation program run by the National Guard Bureau and executed by each state. We have enduring partnerships with countries across the globe," says Maj. William Lindmier, the State Partnership Program Director for Wyoming. "We've been partnered with Tunisia for 16 years. We conduct military to military engagements throughout the year in support of the combatant commander strategic objectives."
The FAM event kicked off with the guard welcoming the Tunisian members on Sept. 14 at the Joint Force Readiness Center, where leadership from the Wyoming Air and Army National Guard greeted them with a culturally influenced coffee social. They began the event with a tour of the facilities where they would be working for the next two weeks.
The event included familiarization in helicopter and C-130 maintenance, aviation operations focused on aerial firefighting, search and rescue and domestic response. Other areas included aeromedical evacuation, response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive hazards, as well as a medical program at the Wyoming State Lab, Cheyenne VA Hospital, and a Northern Colorado COVID-19 response hospital.
The 13 Tunisian members consisted of C-130 and UH-60 pilots and two doctors from the Tunisian Medical Corps. The event revolved around subject matter expert exchanges with the 84th Civil Support Team and 153rd Air Wing at the Wyoming Air Guard and the Army Aviation Support Facility on F.E. Warren AFB. All of these visits included academic and practical exercises.
"They will be conducting a series of events rotating around the UH-60 M helicopter and the C-130 Hercules airframes. These events are really a culmination of a series that were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions through the course of the summer," says Lindmier.
Wyoming gains a lot with these types of exchanges.
"All of our events are mutually beneficial," Lindmier says. "When we work side by side we find that both agencies improve as we learn tactics, techniques and procedures from our Tunisian counterparts."
Lt. Col. Ramzi Ridene, the Tunisian commander, also gave remarks on the FAM event.
"I want to thank the Wyoming National Guard leadership and whole team for their hospitality and the wealth of shared experiences," Ridene says.
Ridene also commented on how rich their experience of the program was, and how much they look forward to further cooperation and enhanced exchanges.
The FAM event went beyond the classroom. The Tunisians experienced local Wyoming culture with a tour of the State Museum and the State Capitol. They were also able to watch the Laramie County Community College Rodeo and visit several Wyoming outdoor gems, including Curt Gowdy State Park and the Vedauwoo Recreation Area.
"Especially right now, during COVID-19, our own ability to maintain relationships and contact with our families, friends and neighbors is strained. We also find that our international partnerships are strained as well." Lindmier goes on to say, "It makes it that much more important that we are fortunate to conduct this type of event with our international partners, to maintain these enduring relationships that have lasted so long, with hopes that they will continue to be great partners for years and years to come."