Colorado Air Guard medics, Slovenia exchange best practices

  • Published
  • By Victoria Cashman
  • U.S. Air Force International Health Specialists

FALLS CHURCH, Va. - The Colorado Air National Guard reinforced its longstanding relationship with Slovenian counterparts during Adriatic Strike 2021, enhancing interoperability and trust.

Each year, Colorado Guardsmen participate in Adriatic Strike, a two-week, multinational Joint Terminal Attack Controllers exercise led by Slovenia. U.S. Air Force International Health Specialists at U.S. European Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa helped coordinate a medical component of the exercise. This year, they arranged for 40 Guard members to participate in the exercise and exchange best practices with Slovenian medics in May.

“The first week, we paired up by roles so they can see how we do things and we can see how they do things,” said Lt. Col. Jason Patten, 140th Medical Group mission lead, Colorado Air National Guard. “The exchange is mutually beneficial because we both can learn from each other.”

During the second week, U.S. forces evaluated Slovenia’s Role 2 field hospital capability. Slovenia’s goal is to be fully interoperable by 2025 to support the United Nations and NATO missions. This evaluation served as a milestone that helps Air Force International Health Specialists calibrate the long-term U.S.-Slovenia engagement plan supporting this goal.

The National Guard brings much-needed continuity to engagement with Slovenia. Since 1994, the Colorado National Guard has conducted security cooperation with Slovenia as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program. This program pairs U.S. states with partner nations to support combatant commanders’ security cooperation objectives. Many senior Guardsmen participating in Adriatic Strike 2021 have engaged with Slovenia throughout their careers and have formed close relationships with Slovenian counterparts.

“Rising in rank together allows personnel from both countries to build relationships that will continue for decades,” Patten said. “We’ve also brought junior Guardsmen on this exercise who are critical to the longevity of this partnership.”

Slovenia is one of the founding members of the Balkans Medical Task Force – an alliance of six Balkan nations that provides a deployable medical capability for regional and global peacekeeping. 

“Adriatic Strike serves as an example of how countries separated by oceans, language and culture can work together seamlessly,” said Lt. Col. Amanda Hill, commander of the 140th Medical Group, Colorado Air National Guard. “We wanted to provide an example that the leadership of the Balkan Medical Task Force could observe, learn from, and collaboratively apply to improve medical capability within the Balkan countries.”

The continuity National Guardsmen bring to partnerships and alliances is critical to ensure exercises are integrated into long-term planning and support National Defense Strategy objectives. Adriatic Strike is one component of a series of engagements that strengthens alliances, fosters health security, and enhances joint force readiness.