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SPP brings Kosovo delegates to Iowa National Guard

Nine mayors and other delegates from Kosovo stand in front of a KC-135 Statotanker, assigned to the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, at Colonel Bud Day Field in Sioux City, Iowa, Feb. 26, 2020. The group came to Iowa to formalize a sister-city agreement between the city of Gjilian and Sioux City as an outgrowth of the National Guard State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)

Nine mayors and other delegates from Kosovo stand in front of a KC-135 Statotanker, assigned to the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, at Colonel Bud Day Field in Sioux City, Iowa, Feb. 26, 2020. The group came to Iowa to formalize a sister-city agreement between the city of Gjilian and Sioux City as an outgrowth of the National Guard State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)

SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Mayors and other delegates from Kosovo visited the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing in February to formalize a sister-city agreement between Sioux City and Gjilian in Kosovo.

The delegation met with 185th Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Mark Muckey and members of the 185th leadership team. The group toured the Air Guard facility and explored a KC-135 aircraft.

Capt. Amanda Heitman, director of personnel at the Air Guard unit and chair for the Kosovo sister-city committee in Sioux City, said the visit was an outgrowth of the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program that paired the Iowa National Guard and Kosovo in 2011.

"This is a big event, just having (Gjilian) Mayor (Lufti) Haziri here in Iowa is a great first step in relationship building," Heitman said. "This is his first visit to Sioux City and the United States."

Under the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program (SPP), the Iowa National Guard and the Kosovo Security Force hold a variety of training events in Iowa and Kosovo.

The goal is to build military-to-military and civil-military relationships to improve long-term regional security throughout southern Europe.

The SPP has spawned broader ties like the sister-city relationship. Cities in Iowa that already have sister-city relationships in Kosovo include Johnston, Fort Dodge and Norwalk. Sioux City and Dubuque have been working to establish similar relationships.

"This will help foster cultural exchange and help to build a relationship between our two communities," Heitman said. "This agreement formalizes our relationship and makes future activities a priority."

The SPP has been building relationships for over 25 years and includes 78 partnerships with 84 nations around the globe. SPP links a unique component of the Department of Defense - a state's National Guard - with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

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