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Air National Guard units host partnership day

RIGA, Latvia -- The 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, has played a role in displaying excellence in air power during a partnership day allowing distinguished visitors from Latvia to witness an A-10 Thunderbolt II being refueled mid-flight over Latvia on June 10.

Along with the 127th Wing two other Air National Guard units, Pennsylvania and Maryland, came together during the exercise for the distinguished visitor and partnership day highlighting the importance of airpower and the tools utilized to ensure that airpower is available to those who need it. The annual event known as Exercise Saber Strike has brought 14 ally and partner nations together to increase interoperability and stability between military forces, and is designed to continuously build relationships and maintain a partnership with Baltic and European allies. The Michigan National Guard is involved in a Department of Defense sponsored State Partnership program with the Latvian government since 1993.

During Saber Strike 2015 a variety of U.S. Air Force aircraft, one of which is the KC-135 Stratotanker from the Michigan ANG, have been staged at the Riga International Airport for the exercise which is taking place over a two-week period and features about 6,000 total military personnel in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland. The Michigan ANG has about two dozen personnel with three KC-135's involved during the exercise.

Members of the three ANG units were able to tell a piece of the Air National Guard story by allowing the Latvians to personally see aircraft operations signifying the importance of interoperability and each Airmen's role in distributing needed air power globally to U.S. forces and allies. Each crewmember aboard the KC-135 gave a presentation of what they do and what it takes to get the job done and complete the mission during an inflight aerial refueling mission.

"I think it is great to be able to teach the Latvian people about the KC-135," said Master Sgt. Mike Campbell, 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "They were very interested in seeing how we operate our aircraft and were excited to take part in what we are doing."

While our senior leaders continue to pave the way to continued success working with our Latvian partners there is also a plan to enhance operations and extend a helping hand with the use of select Michigan National Guard members and resources. The exercise is planned to continue yearly and move forward with other operations allowing the relationship between those involved in Saber Strike to evolve.

"I believe this exercise is the continuation of a very positive relationship between Michigan and Latvia and also helps us to strengthen our partnership with our other Baltic allies," said Maj. Deryck Castonguay, 171st Air Refueling Squadron pilot.

With the ongoing exercise taking place, the three ANG units display the ability to continuously become more efficient with each mission.