Arizona, Kazakh Airmen discuss enlisted roles in airpower

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Susan Gladstein
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing
The Arizona National Guard welcomed seven members of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan to its KC-135 Stratotanker unit here for an Air Force noncommissioned officer information exchange Sept. 8-12 as part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

The Arizona National Guard and the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan share an enduring 20-year relationship though the State Partnership Program; an initiative which links selected state Guards with a strategic military partners across the globe to foster long-term and unique security relationships.

"I'm extremely proud that the National Guard is leading the way with the State Partnership Program," said Col. Gary Brewer Jr., 161st Air Refueling Wing commander. "Not only do both countries stand to benefit from the valuable exchange of information, but the relationships and understanding that is fostered in these meetings lay the foundation for a better world for our children."

During the week-long NCO exchange, Airmen from both countries explained the diverse roles of enlisted members in both air forces. Topics discussed included enlisted force structures, promotions, professional military education, performance feedback, evaluation processes and career development.

"I can speak for everyone on our team when I say that working alongside the Kazakh's to meet common goals and objectives has been one of the highlights of our careers," said Chief Master Sgt. Duncan Hannigan, 161st Operations Group superintendent and exchange organizer. "It has been a pleasure hosting such a great event with a group of outstanding individuals and I look forward to more exchanges in the future."

The Kazakh delegation echoed the chief's sentiments and said the goals of the visit were achieved.

"The armed forces of our countries interacted according to the State Partnership Program and the Partnership for Peace program," said Kazakh Air Force Col. Nural Karbenov, deputy chief commander of air defense on combat training. "It is very interesting for us to learn the activities of NCOs in the U.S. armed forces. I think the information you've provided at the wing will help us to improve the NCO corps in the wings of the armed forces of Kazakhstan."

The group toured the 161st Maintenance and Operations Groups and flew in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with the Arizona Army National Guard. For one Kazakh NCO, the flight was the highlight of the exchange.

"The flight was awesome," said Kazakh Master Sgt. Sarsenbay Shurakhanov, command chief sergeant of the Air Defense Forces. "The (Army) pilots were true professionals and flew very well. I should know, I used to fly in helicopters."

Arizona's State Partnership Program assistant coordinator, Army Staff Sgt. Ethan Estey, said Guard members make in impact far beyond the state's borders through the State Partnership Program.

"Your efforts and actions go far beyond this exchange," Estey said. "You operate on an international level that indirectly influences foreign policy and the view that others have of America. I have no doubt that this delegation will return to Kazakhstan with good ideas, new plans, and a new fondness for America. In a turbulent world, the Guard does considerable work to help maintain peace and stability in Central Asia."