CONG and RJAF celebrate 10 years of partnership … brotherhood

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kinder Blacke
  • 140th Wing Public Affairs
In 2004, the Colorado National Guard and Royal Jordanian Armed Forces established a relationship that has been immeasurably valuable to both nations ever since. Today we celebrate the tenth year of collaboration, but more importantly, friendship.

Through the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, the militaries of Colorado and Jordan have spent the past ten years travelling back and forth to exchange ideas and best-practices, conduct exercises, learn about each other's country and cultures, and form lasting relationships.

As the only state to have a partnership with a Middle Eastern country, Colorado seems to be the perfect fit.

Not only do Colorado and Jordan both employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon, they share several other similarities, including comparable climates, water conservation issues and clean energy aspirations.  

"We truly cherish this partnership," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the adjutant general of the CONG, who has played an active role in the partnership since its inception. "We want to continue to grow together, to pursue these common issues, to make sure that we're helping each other wherever we can and at the same time, gaining a better appreciation for each other."

Through the SPP, the CONG and Jordan have conducted military-to-military engagements on various subjects, including flying tactics in both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, aircraft maintenance, safety, public affairs, women in the service, explosive ordnance disposal, personnel and leadership development, among several more.

One of the current focuses is on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) enhanced response force packages (CERFP). Subject matter experts from the CONG are working with Jordan's Chemical Support Units and several other civilian agencies in Jordan to ensure they are fully prepared to respond to CBRN-related incidents, which is currently a very realistic threat in their country.

While this training was coordinated through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, due to the pre-established relationship through SPP, CONG members were eager and prepared to be the team to provide the training.

Staff Sgt. Dusky VanNess, decontamination liaison officer with the Colorado Army National Guard, just completed training his fourth team of first responders since November 2013.

"It was challenging at first, working with the interpreters, but now it has become much easier," VanNess said. "It's awesome working with them. They are really motivated because this is a realistic threat for Jordan," he said, "it really means a lot to them."

After watching the most newly-trained team construct the decontamination line in an impressive 21 minutes, VanNess is confident of their competency. "I'd put them up against our team in a race!" 

While the Chemical Support Unit was racing to set up their decontamination line, another annual competition was going on simultaneously... the Falcon Air Meet.

Annually, jets from multiple nations join together in northern Jordan to conduct flying exercises and compete in the FAM. The events incorporate bomb loading, quick launch scramble, air-to-air tactics and bombing. The Colorado Air National Guard has been a part of it since day one.

"We bring different cultures and communities together who fly the same types of aircraft, but have different ways of employing them," said Lt. Col. Firas Masa‛deh, wing commander for the Royal Jordanian Air Force.  "By conducting these exercises, we get experience working together, and in the case of a real world coalition, it won't be our first time flying together."

Though there is an obvious language barrier between Jordanians and Coloradans, it seems to have lessened over the years of cooperation. According to Masa‛deh, the Colorado and Jordan relationship is something special.

"We have a common language and understand each other perfectly by now," said Masa‛deh. "This ongoing relationship is very, very beneficial... it can't be measured by ten years--it is far better and far more than that."

His Royal Highness Prince Feisal bin al-Hussein of Jordan agrees. "There is comfort in knowing that we can work together and are confident in each other's capabilities," the prince said. "More and more frequently we find ourselves working together around the world, side by side."

For this reason, not only is it critical to be able to fly together, the benefits of being friends are immeasurable.

"While this is a partnership in name, it is a brotherhood in reality," said HRH Prince Faisal, and there are true benefits as a result. "When we deployed in Unified Protector, to be very honest, if it had not been for the Colorado Guard officers that deployed with us, our ability to integrate would have taken far longer."

Because of the ten years of partnership, Jordan and Colorado have developed a mutual trust, said General Edwards. "We know each other before ever being in the fight," he added.

And it's not just about the flying, explains General Edwards, "it's the camaraderie... it's as much a cultural opportunity as it is a flying opportunity."

While American and Jordanian cultures differ quite a bit, one of the most important similarities is the common attitude of truly trying to take care of people, Edwards explains.

"Jordan has such warm and hospitable people, and it's all about people," Edwards said. "It is truly like coming home to family because we know each other so well and we are such good friends."

These types of international relationships that form through the SPP are critical to promoting peace and stability worldwide. "This partnership means so much to us in Colorado," Edwards said.

When speaking with members from either nation, it is evident that the CONG-Jordan union seems to be working really well.

"This relationship bodes well for both sides, and we hope to continue to build on that in various avenues," said HRH Prince Faisal, "I think this partnership is going to continue to strengthen."