180th FW Welcomes Serbian Air Force
By Capt. Gary Bentley, 180th Fighter Wing
/ Published March 02, 2009
March 2009 -- One of the coldest Januarys in recent history did not dampen the spirits of four Serbian Air Force members, and an interpreter, who recently spent a week at the 180th Fighter Wing. The guests included Brig Gen Mirko Vranic, 204 AFB Commander, Col Dejan Joksimovic, 98th AFB Commander, SMSgt Miodrag Markovcevic, Chief of Weapons Supply, 98th AFB, MSgt Sasa Sailovic, Weapons Specialist, 98th AFB., and Natasa Mrdak, interpreter.
"The Serbian visit was tied to the National Guard State Partnership Program that was
established in 1993 in response to the radically changed political- military situation following the collapse of Communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union," said Capt Matthew Zelnik, State Partnership Program Director. "The program links US states with partner countries for the purpose of supporting the security cooperation objectives of the Combatant Commander. The program's goals reflect an evolving international affairs mission for the National Guard using the unique civil-military nature of the Guard to interact with both active and reserve forces of foreign countries."
Ohio began the partnership with the Republic of Serbia in 2006. Since then, there have been more than 50 exchanges of personnel and events. When the partnership began, events were conducted and the primary goal was to develop an understanding of what each partner could contribute. "We have begun a phase this year to conduct more unit level events that support the exchange of information between two professional military organizations," added Zelnik.
The Serbians were the guests of the 180th Fighter Wing from Jan 25 through Jan 30. While at the 180th, the group received briefings from each functional area of the Wing. They also interacted with members of the Operations Group, Maintenance Group, and Mission Support Group. The overall purpose of their visit was to allow them to observe and develop an understanding of how their counterparts in the Ohio National Guard lead their units. In addition, the group wanted time to interact and meet with their counterparts to understand the overall mission of the 180th Fighter Wing.
Col. Mark E. Bartman's goal for the visit was that our Serbian guests be provided with a free-flow of information in order to assist them with their goal of re-shaping the Serbian Air Force. At a brief meeting on the last day of their visit, Brig. Gen. Vranic stated that he was very pleased with the openness and willingness of 180th members in sharing information during the visit.
On Tuesday night of their visit, an official dinner was held at Mancy's Restaurant in Toledo. Mr. Arthur "Jibby" Jibilian of Fremont was at the dinner with his family. Jibby was honored at the 180th on Dec. 7th in a ceremony recognizing his actions during Operation Halyard that is featured in the book, The Forgotten 500. Jibby appreciated the chance to meet with our Serbian guests and to thank them for Serbia's efforts in helping rescue our downed Airmen. Maj. Gen. Harry Feucht, Assistant Adjutant General for Air, attended the dinner as did Capt. Zelnik. Their visit also included a day trip to Wright-Patterson AFB to tour the National Museum of the Air Force. The group appreciated the opportunity to visit the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum.
It took the cooperation of many different 180th members to help make the visit a success and we can all take pride in knowing that we contributed greatly to the ongoing success
of the National Guard State Partnership Program, and we can expect future visits by our
Serbian military partners. Further opportunities for 180th members to visit Serbian counterparts may also exist.