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Kentucky Guard Hosts Ecuadorian Military for Leader Engagement

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Crane,
  • Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Senior Kentucky National Guard leaders welcomed military personnel from the Armed Forces of Ecuador in a State Partnership Program exchange Jan. 30-Feb. 1.

Eight senior officials representing Ecuador’s Army, Navy, and Air Force heard and saw what the Kentucky National Guard was about.

Ecuador has partnered with Kentucky since 1996, enhancing interoperability and readiness.

During the four-day visit, the Ecuadorians participated in briefings by the Kentucky Army National Guard and Kentucky Emergency Management, toured the capitol, and met Gov. Andy Beshear.

They also visited Airmen at the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville to learn about the Kentucky Air Guard’s support of U.S. military operations worldwide while also serving the commonwealth of Kentucky during times of crisis or natural disaster. 

Over the past few years, Kentucky and Ecuador have faced many of the same challenges, from civil unrest to flooding. Because of that, they met with Lexington Fire Training Center leaders and viewed static displays of rescue equipment and boats available to the fire department and its search and rescue teams.

“I don’t have a lot of information as far as this equipment,” said Admiral Jaime Vela Erazo, chief of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces. “But I do like and enjoy the capabilities that they have here in the event that there’s a natural disaster.”

Military leaders of both countries said this international partnership is about more than just discussing new technologies and equipment.

“There’s not necessarily one right way to conduct military operations,” said Maj. Gen. Haldane Lamberton, the adjutant general of Kentucky. “We learn from the military in Ecuador. They learn how we do things, and it works out terrifically well for an integrated dynamic of sharing information.”

After the visit to the Fire Academy, they were flown over eastern Kentucky in a UH-60 Black Hawk for a tour of the areas hit hardest during the flooding of 2022. The discussions continued at the airport in Hazard that served as the command post during Kentucky’s response to that natural disaster.

Following the flight back to Kentucky National Guard Headquarters in Frankfort, Lamberton and Erazo signed a new memorandum of agreement that continues the partnership into 2026.

“I enjoy every time I get an opportunity to participate in the State Partnership Program, whether it’s here in Kentucky or going to Ecuador, which is a beautiful, awesome country,” said Col. Tim Starke, director of operations for the KYARNG. “I feel like this week has gone really well because we’ve enabled our partners to meet Soldiers and Airmen to see the people who actually operate the equipment and conduct the missions, and hear directly from them about how we’re moving forward as an organization.”

Since the partnership began in 1996, Soldiers and Airmen from the Kentucky National Guard have engaged with their Ecuadorian counterparts in Kentucky and Ecuador. Highlights include joint training exercises, collaborative engineering and medical projects, and cultural exchanges.