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Serbian Air Force Visit: Exchange of Experiences

July 2008 -- Five Serbian Air Force aviators came to Ohio on a seven-day whirlwind tour under the State Partnership Program. In September of 2006, the Ohio National Guard entered into a partnership with the Republic of Serbia, fostering greater communication and providing resources for the purpose of training and modernization of their Armed Forces. The Serbian Air Force, which is a mixed squadron of both helicopters and aircrafts, had a great interest in the bases located in Ohio. The fighter pilots of Serbia mainly fly MiG 21s and 29s, according to Lieutenant Colonel Ljubomir Djurdjevic, Commander of 101st Fighter Squadron/204 Air Force Base. 

"I am impressed how everything is functioning well," said Djurdjevic. "Operations are similar but yours (180th Fighter Wing) is perfected." 

Their fast-paced trip placed them at the four Air National Guard Bases in Ohio of which included Columbus, Springfield, Mansfield and Toledo. Upon arrival to the base, they received a briefing detailing important initiatives such as the Federal and State mission, Air Sovereignty Alerts, Air Expeditionary Forces and Flight Planning. As they learned about the different wings and exchanged experiences, Colonel Dragoslav Milenkovic, Chief of Division in Air Defense Department of Operational Affairs A-3, expressed how 9/11 changed their focus. 

"9/11 changed operations throughout Europe," said Milenkovic. "We are small, but it is still important to protect our air space. Fighter pilots have a short time to respond, so all of the countries in the Balkans have to link to have a large network." 

The brief visit by the Serbian Armed Forces was not only beneficial to them but also to us, as members of the United States Armed Forces. As 9/11 affected operations all across the world, this interaction proved that we still have an opportunity to invoke positive change by becoming strategic allies to countries around the world. The State Partnership Program has allowed us to build relationships not only with the Serbian Air Force, but also the Hungarian military in hopes of developing international affairs and regional stability.

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