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Maine Air National Guard, Montenegro Partner in SPP Event

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jeffrey Roosevelt,
  • Joint Force Headquarters - Maine National Guard

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – The Maine Air National Guard hosted members of the Montenegrin military during a communications familiarization event the first week of June.

The 243rd Engineering Installations Squadron and the 265th Combat Communications Squadron provided activities ranging from antenna tower climbing to operations of complex communications systems.

“The Maine National Guard has enjoyed an expanding relationship with Montenegro for over 15 years,” said 2nd Lt. Omar Gonzaga, operations officer for the 265th CBCS. “These opportunities allow us to not only showcase some state-of-the-art equipment but also provides our guests with examples of best practices on how to plan and implement various resources. They also were able to provide us with some valuable insights, making it a two-way flow of information.”

The Balkan country of Montenegro, located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, declared its independence June 3, 2006. On Nov. 20, 2006, Montenegro signed a bilateral affairs agreement with the Department of Defense and established a partnership with the state of Maine through the DOD National Guard State Partnership Program.

Four English-speaking officers from the Montenegrin army toured the South Portland Air National Guard Station for this SPP event. They were briefed on the 265th CBSC’s recent flexible communications package exercise and tower climbing safety before climbing the 150-foot SPANGS tower.

“The tower climbing was certainly something they will go back and tell their units about,” said 2nd Lt. Justin Smith, cyberspace engineer for the 243rd EIS. “Working on towers is part of what some Airmen do here for us to be able to deploy anywhere in the world. The Montenegrin military has not fully developed these capabilities, making this a unique experience.”

The next two days, the Montenegrins participated in a comprehensive communications exercise with members of the 243rd EIS and 265th CBCS — setting up and operating both units’ resources.

On the event’s final day, the visitors watched the National Guard in action during drill weekend. About 300 Airmen arrived at SPANGS early in the morning and began working on similar training to what the Montenegrins had observed on a smaller scale during the week. After a barbecue with both units, they returned to Montenegro.

“The National Guard’s State Partnership Program provides an incredible opportunity for states to help build strong bilateral defense relationships,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, Maine’s adjutant general. “You just have to look at the National Guard relationships in Europe. The value of these close partnerships, built over years, is certainly serving the region well countering Russian aggression.”

SPP began in 1993 to support defense strategy goals using military-to-military engagements. All states participate in the program, with 93 partner nations. Some of the SPP areas of focus include disaster and emergency response, leader and staff development, engineering activities, and communications security.

“Maine participates in approximately 25 events each year - in Maine, Montenegro, and globally - supporting the National Defense Strategy,” said Farnham. “Our partnership creates strong, meaningful relationships, which help develop all our service members.”