FRANKFORT, Ky. –
Key leaders from the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard welcomed Ecuadorian military forces and political leaders from March 28 through 31, 2022, for the most significant Ecuadorian delegation visit to the United States in over a decade.
"The event was an incredible success," said Lt. Col. Daniel Cooper, the Kentucky National Guard State Partnership Program director. “Between 2017 and 2019, we made significant strides to rebuild the partnership with Ecuador. Though Covid slowed us down, this event was pivotal to rebuilding the relationships the program provides."
The Kentucky National Guard first established a working relationship with Ecuador in 1996 through the State Partnership Program or SPP.
SPP is a program that conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals and leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.
"The key leader engagement completed long-held goals for the Kentucky National Guard and Ecuadorian Armed Forces," said Capt. Joshua Selby, Kentucky National Guard Bilateral Affairs Officer for Ecuador. "Both military organizations wanted to create a long-range training event schedule for the fiscal year 2023 and 2024. They can do that by signing a memorandum of understanding detailing each other's roles and responsibilities, a first for this partnership."
The engagement kicked off in Frankfort on March 28 with a meet and greet, followed by both parties briefing their current engagements and highlighting significant areas within the organization.
The groups then toured the Army Aviation Support Facility and the Kentucky State Capital Building.
On the following day, the engagement continued in Louisville, Kentucky, where the Air Guard hosted a tour and lunch at the 123rd Air Wing. To share Kentucky culture with Ecuadorian leadership, the groups toured the Derby Museum at Churchill Downs and Peerless Distillery.
"It's a different level of relationship-building when senior leaders from both organizations are present and able to share each other's culture," said Cooper. "The state partnership program tries to ensure at least one key leader engagement annually. Being that this is the first in-person conference in over a decade made it extremely important to establish lifelong relationships between people and organizations."
On the third day, the groups were transported by UH-60 Blackhawks to the Wendell H. Ford Reginal Training Center where they were greeted by the 238th Reginal Training Institute cadre and leadership.
Ecuadorian leadership had an opportunity to see the Officer Candidate School process and other training functions the base provides, such as the weapons qualification ranges and the process by which Kentucky Soldiers prepare.
The conference concluded with the completion of a Memorandum of Understanding. Senior leaders signed the document to commemorate its establishment.
This document will set the precedence for how the Guard and Ecuadorian forces will engage, network, and develop that relationship over the next two years.
"The significance of our partnership is to share the knowledge of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces and their experiences," said General Orlando Fabian Fuel Revelo, Chief of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, Ecuador. "In the same way, receive all the experience that the United States military has to offer -- especially the Kentucky National Guard, who specializes in providing support for emergency management, logistics, and providing leadership training.”
"It has been an honor, as an Ecuadorian soldier, to have shared this time with all of you. We thank you in advance for the support our soldiers will receive from you during the next three years now that we have signed this agreement," Revelo concluded.