Maine Airman Heads to Montenegro

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Andrew Sinclair
  • 101st Air Refueling Wing

BANGOR, ME -- Maine Airman from the 101st Air Refueling Wing moves to Montenegro to serve as Bilateral Affairs Officer for Maine’s State Partnership Program. The program is designed to further strengthen the relationship between the United States and Montenegro.

Major Carolyn Richley started her military career as an active duty lieutenant in the U.S. Army and later joined the Maine Air National Guard. Richley is an engineer by trade so it only made sense that when she joined the 101st Air Refueling Wing, she became a member in the Civil Engineer unit.

However, as most of who are in the military know and understand, sometimes stepping outside the comfort zone can be hard to come to terms with, however that’s exactly what Richley did.

Uprooting your family and life as you know it isn’t an easy task, but if you ask Richley and those like her, they would say that’s why we’re here, that’s why serving isn’t for everyone.

“One of our biggest questions was what does every day normal family life look like here. We were up for an adventure and this has definitely been one.” said Major Richley in an over the phone interview. “I really do feel as though this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so jumping on it made sense.”

Richley and her family have been in Montenegro for over a year and it has been an eye opening experience for her. Every military to military engagement (exercises, events, visits, etc.) involving the U.S. military and the Montenegrin military goes through Richley and her team, allowing a smooth flow of operations and continuity for future missions.

Keeping the relationship going is a good way to describe what Richley does in her new role. Information Technologies, Cyber Warfare, Infantry Tactics, Policy Building, and Community Outreach are just some of the topics Richley tackles on a regular basis, bridging the geographical gap between the two nations and strengthening a friendship that is set for years to come.

“I’m extremely proud of all the work Maine has done to help with Montenegrin projects just in the short time I’ve been here. It’s really awesome to see all the interesting things we’re doing as Maineers here in Montenegro,” Richley said.

Richley and her team pride themselves on their expert exchanges, learning how the Montenegrin military conducts their operations and surrounding herself with subject matter experts to help teach the host nation how the U.S. military operates under the same circumstances.

“Sometimes we just exchange expertise, bounce ideas off each other to get the best of both worlds, it’s really kind of fun,” Richley said.

The Maine–Montenegro State Partnership is one of 82 partnerships with 89 countries worldwide that make-up the National Guard State Partnership Program. Their partnership started fifteen years ago as of November 6, 2021 and have accomplished countless feats. Some of these include management of large-scale disasters, building educational and economic relations, developing university interaction and student and faculty exchanges, developing co-deployment opportunities, and moving to collective-level training, using MEANG KC-135 for airlift.

All of these are experiences that Richley and those who came before her have been able to witness; one of the best aspects about being in the Maine Air National Guard. Having no prior experience as a Bilateral Affairs Officer before moving to Montenegro, Richley entered a sink or swim environment. The best part of growing as an Airman is the experiences and trials of reaching that new goal.

“I know resilience is kind of a buzzword right now. I really think that’s important. Part of that is just not being scared to experience small failures. But that’s part of the process, they help us grow and become better as Airmen and wingmen too,” Richley said.

When asked if she has anything she would want to pass on to her fellow MAINEiacs, Richley relayed the importance of constant self improvement and professional development. To not be afraid to step outside our comfort zones and to build a professional portfolio for ourselves and our Airmen we work with.

“We want to share the love, we want to spread the word on how awesome Montenegro is, how awesome Maine is and how great of a partnership we have together,” Richley said.

The opportunity to move overseas and partake in a unique role as a Bilateral Affairs Officer is just one of many amazing jobs that the Maine Air National Guard has to offer, and the fact that these opportunities are afforded to all MAINEiacs is a very exciting thought for those willing to meet new challenges head on.