Ukranian dignitaries visit the 146th Airlift Wing
By Senoir Airman Nichole Ramirez, 146AW
/ Published June 05, 2010
CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. -- Several high-ranking members of the Ukrainian military were on base May 1 - 4, 2010 to observe the way we deploy, covering the streamline procedures of our prominent processes.
Over the years, the wing has shared its processes, protocols and capabilities with the Ukrainian military. This program is an ongoing partnership with the Ukraine, and is a part of the National Security Strategy and National Military Strategy international relations activities conducted by the California National Guard.
The California National Guard's Office of International Affairs manages the State Partnership Program (SPP) with Ukraine and Nigeria. National Guard teams deploy to Ukraine, and Ukrainians come to California for information sharing, and to assist the Armed Forces of Ukraine in modernizing its forces, and strengthening principles of democracy and free market economies.
Members of the 146th visited Ukraine in April of this year, and the Ukrainian staff reciprocated the visit in May to learn detailed information on our wing's deployment processes from the same team of individuals who visited them.
Among the team members from the 146th were Capt. Marie Kwon, Deployment and Distribution Flight Commander, and Master Sgt. Louis Franco, Air Terminal Operations Superintendent. In addition to wing staff was State Headquarters Logistics and International Officer, Col. Denise Varner.
Ukrainian Air Force staff consisted of Colonel V. Gamora, Chief, Operations Directorate, Deputy Chief of Staff, Ukrainian Air Force Command, Head of Ukrainian delegation; Colonel O. Kulibaba, Deputy Chief of Aviation, Ukrainian Air Force Command; Colonel V. Shkoliarenko, Chief, Operational Training Branch, Operations Directorate, Ukrainian Air Force Command HQ; Col. Andrii Alimpiev, Deputy Commander, unit No. A4515; and Ms.Oksana Honcharuk, their interpreter.
Throughout the various presentations, demonstrations and discussions, much focus was placed on the protocols and processes our wing leadership uses to determine who is in charge of what. The group was shown various components of the wing's day-to-day business, with a large emphasis on the enlisted core and its impact on our military. Many differences exist between the Ukraine's military system and our own--for example, Ukranian enlisted personnel are not granted the same level of authority as senior non-commissioned officers. It was also noted that officers do not delegate tasks nearly as much in Ukraine, thus occupying their time predominantly with logistical issues that might otherwise be handled by senior enlisted here in the U.S.
Colonel V. Shkoliarenko explained that "officers are expected to handle so many details" and was very anxious to understand how the leadership in the United States Air Force knows how to trust subordinates, and how to place those selected enlisted personnel in roles of responsibility and authority.
In addition to the interest in processes and protocol was the issue of retention. The Ukrainian leadership was very interested to learn how the 146th Airlift Wing retains their personnel. Covered topics included pay, pension and also the type of camaraderie developed between wing members that strengthens the unit's capabilities and solidifies the wing's retention.
Capt. Kwon spoke with the visitors and emphasized the need for ongoing efforts to help spread the Western Philosophy of democracy, and to maximize efficiency through delegation to maximize capabilities.
"There are too many layers to get small things accomplished. We rely heavily on our enlisted core and avoid micro-management," said Capt. Kwon.
Capt. Kwon spoke about the need for cultural exchange to help drive the training. It was evident that as the members of the Ukrainian Air Force interacted with our members, they developed a better understanding about our culture and how it directly related to our processes.
Master Sgt. Franco had the opportunity to observe first-hand the similarities and differences that exist amongst our cultures and families while visiting in the Ukraine, and reciprocally invited the Ukrainians over to a family member's home here for a traditional Mexican meal.
"They are a lot like us. The focus on family and talk about wanting options; freedom of choice," said Master Sgt. Franco.
While the Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO, they are striving to be more NATO compliant. The details of their status still remain indefinite, but their will to pursue bilateral engagement partnerships continues. In addition to California, other state National Guards are partnering with the SPP as well. As the program develops, it is becoming a refined security cooperation tool of U.S. National Security Strategy that encompasses facets of civilian, military, NATO and commercial organizations.
The ongoing efforts of the 146th Airlift Wing serve to promote democracy in the civilian and military institutions in the Ukraine.