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Enduring Partners 2024 Begins with Thai-US Airmen Exchange

  • Published
  • By Airman Jordaan Kvale and Lt. Col. Alyson Teeter,
  • Washington Air National Guard

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - The second iteration of Enduring Partners commenced April 30 with an opening ceremony officiated by Royal Thai Air Force Group Captain Sithipol Pomtri, exercise director, and U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, Washington Air National Guard commander.

Although the ceremony looked like a standard military function, it was a groundbreaking event.

Last year, Washington and Oregon Air Guardsmen traveled to Thailand for the inaugural Enduring Partners engagement. For EP 24, while RTAF Airmen were hosted in Washington state, Washington Air National Guardsmen were simultaneously hosted in Thailand. It was an Airman exchange between the two countries.

“For the last eight years at Airman-to-Airman events, I would close out my remarks to say, ‘In the future, we’ll have a day where we fly Washington Air National Guardsmen to Thailand and bring Thai Air Force members to Washington state,’” Welsh said. “That day is today. … This is a wonderful experience.”

Approximately 30 Washington Air National Guardsmen onboard a KC-135 Stratotanker arrived at Don Mueang Royal Thai Air Force Base in Bangkok April 26. A day later, the KC-135 and WA ANG aircrew from the 141st Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, lifted off again, returning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord with 30 members from the Royal Thai Air Force.

EP 24 is designed to build upon EP 23’s success and consists of five lines of effort: humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and medical; tactical air control party and joint terminal attack controller and combat control team; cyber; ground-controlled interception; and space operations. WA ANG and RTAF Airmen will train together in optimal training environments, enhancing readiness, interoperability and combined capabilities.

Since signing their formal partnership through the State Partnership Program in 2002, the Washington National Guard and the Royal Thai Armed Forces have met regularly through subject matter expert exchanges, engagements and exercises to enhance mutual capabilities, security cooperation, and people-to-people connections beyond military cooperation.

“It’s pretty cool to have that partnership,” said Maj. Blake Fair, ground-controlled interception lead for EP 24. “Making good connections … and in exchange learning how they do things to see how we can change.”

In addition to providing valuable training, EP 24 allows Airmen to develop mutual respect, trust and partnership.

“Over the next two weeks, you’re going to have some great opportunities to learn a lot of things, but the primary thing that you’re going to do is build relationships,” Welsh said. “This is about the future. This is about a partnership that really has no limits.”

The engagement runs through May 10.