Paraguayans Visit Barnes

  • Published
  • By Capt. Matthew T. Mutti, Wing Executive Staff Officer
  • 104 Fighter Wing
Winston Churchill said, "If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail." It is in this vain that the National Guard Bureau along with the Adjutant Generals of the 50 states and U.S. territories began the State Partnership Program in 1993 The purpose of this program is to work with partnered countries and assist in the development of democratic institutions, while fostering open market economies, protecting, and represent US. humanitarian values. The collaborative partnerships enhance bilateral relationships and aid developing future alliances. 

Since inception in 1993, the program has grown and at last count the program included 56 different countries partnered with 45 U.S. states, two territories and the District of Columbia. Massachusetts is very proud of its partnership with the country of Paraguay. The Massachusetts National Guard has been conducting SPFP engagements with Paraguay since 2004. 

In June, the 104th Fighter Wing hosted 10 Paraguayan Air Force members for a week of training and collaboration. "It was very important to be able to demonstrate the principles we have been teaching them in Paraguay through practical application here in the states," said Maj. Peter Carr, 104th Fighter Wing Maintenance officer who has worked with the Paraguayan Air Force since 2006.

This trip to Barnes Air National Guard Base marks the first time the Paraguayan Air Force contingent has traveled up to work with one of the Massachusetts Air Guard units. "We are pleased to host this group from Paraguay," said Col Robert Brooks, 104th Fighter Wing Commander. "This event gives us an opportunity to work with one of our allies and learn from each other's experiences."

When the group of 5 maintainers and 5 aviators arrived on 15 June, they were instantaneously greeted with warm welcomes from members of the 104th Fighter Wing who have traveled to Paraguay during previous engagements. Col. Mark Zeckman, the Massachusetts National Guard Director of Operations has worked with the Paraguayan Air Force for the past 3 years, and has developed a strong rapport with many of their delegation. He, along with Maj. Isaias Liriano, the SPFP program coordinator, Lt Col Mike Cousins, the 104 FW Chief of Staff, and three translators, Capt. Christine Chan, Tech. Sgt. Abdias Garcia and Airman Miguel Gonzales, greeted the wing's guests at Logan Airport.

Airman First Class Miguel Gonzalez worked as a translator for the visit and explained the opportunity to work with these foreign military service members was very rewarding. "It was very interesting to hear about how life is in Paraguay." He worked with the delegation for the 5 day trip. "I was able to spend some down-time with them and shared with them some U.S. culture."

During their stay, the 5 Paraguayan maintainers worked hand-in-hand with their U.S. counterparts and shared insight on Operational Risk Management, tool accountability and foreign object damage avoidance. Chief Master Sgt. Galen Wilson led the group through classes centered on 'best practices' and allowed the Paraguayan maintainers insight into how we do business in the Mass. Air Guard.

Simultaneously, the aviators worked with their counterparts in operations and discussed principals of flight scheduling, flight safety, and support integration. The 131st Fighter Squadron pilots worked with the Paraguayan pilots and taught them about the tools used for establishing flight plans, accounting for crew rest and the importance of training currencies. Despite the differences between the U.S. and Paraguayan aircraft, the foundations discussed are universal and easily applied in any flying environment.

On the final day of their visit, in corporation with Six Flags New England, and the Spirit of Springfield, the wing was able to treat the Paraguayans to a visit to an American amusement park. It was quite the experience for the entire group. This was the first trip to the U.S. for many of the visitors, and according to Maj. Mario Torreani, one of the Paraguayan pilots, said there is nothing in Paraguay that can compare to the park. Torreani rode the new Bizarro coaster five times during the visit. At the end of the 5 day trip the entire Paraguayan team was excited about setting up another collaborative visit in the future.