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Air National Guard Continues 30 Year Partnership with Lithuania

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jodi Synder
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing
The 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 171st Air Refueling Wing, conducted airfield surveys with Lithuanian military partners during a country visit May 20-27, 2023.

During the most recent visit, Airmen from the 258th, partnered with Lithuanian airfield officers and pilots to set up aerial surveys to collect data for future planning. An airfield site survey involves inspecting the airfield for quality landing surfaces or any other obstacle that could prohibit an aircraft from landing there.

“It was really insightful to get their (Lithuanian’s) perspective on how the airfields can be used, where we fit into that, and how we can contribute to making the vision successful,” said Capt. Benjamin Kaufman, an airfield operations officer who was a part of the trip.

The Pennsylvania National Guard has connected with the Lithuanian military for the past 30 years through the State Partnership Program. The SPP is a program designed to increase cooperation between Guard units and other nations’ militaries.

“Practicing together builds continuity. The familiarity of being in Lithuania and being around some of the same people, you already know the goals and what the intent is. It helps kick things off in the right frame of mind for what we are trying to accomplish. The more we work together, the better off we will be,” said Kaufman.

Since 1993, Guard units across Pennsylvania have hosted Lithuanian personnel and participated in U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe and NATO exercises.

“Working together gives each one of us a different perspective on operations, the way we train, and how we can move forward,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jason Everetts, an air traffic controller who also attended.

Because of the SPP, relationships have been successfully formed within 100 nations. The SPP enables the United States, allies, and partners to build stability while increasing security around the world.

“Overtime, these relationships lead to a force multiplier,” said Everetts.

When units conduct military-to-military engagements with partner nations, defense goals are fortified.

“It’s great for joint training. We can get out equipment, go through different scenarios and pass the information along back and forth. It’s productive for both of us to get that information,” said Kaufman.

Building relationships throughout the world also creates opportunities for mutual assistance.

“Having conversations about what each one of us can contribute is valuable. Air traffic control partnerships create potential for us to grow capabilities,” said Kaufman.