Alaska National Guard conducts exchanges with Mongolian Air Force counterparts

Alaska Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Mike Keegan, Lt. Col. Richard Welch, and Maj. Nathan Pooler pose for a photo with musical performers during the cultural day of the 2021 Airman to Airman Talks program in Mongolia Nov. 15-17.

by Spc. Grace Nechanicky

The Alaska National Guard participated in the second iteration of the Airman-to-Airman Talks program with the Mongolian Air Force last November to plan for future training and subject matter expert exchanges together.

Hosted by the U.S. Pacific Air Force, the A2AT program develops interoperability, fosters military-to-military relations, and improves bilateral cooperation. The U.S. and partner nation air forces conduct these engagements to plan for collaborative activities and discuss common goals.

This program has direct ties to the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, which Alaska and Mongolia have been partners through since 2003. Via the SPP, the National Guard participates with other militaries in support of defense security goals. It also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.

“[A2AT] gives each of our different components the opportunity to learn best practices from each other,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Keegan, chief enlisted manager for the 176th Civil Engineer Squadron and participant of the latest engagement. “For Alaska Guardsmen, it’s an opportunity to participate in missions outside of their country, outside of their state, that ties directly into their [career] skills training.”

Keegan said that working alongside the Mongolian Air Force for training on engineering and logistics skills goes a long way for country-to-country relations.

He continued that the program is also beneficial because the Mongolian Air Force is relatively new and uses the partnership with the Alaska National Guard to grow their own efficiency.

According to Maj. Nathan Pooler, the international partnership specialist for the Alaska National Guard, Mongolian Air Force command was established into law in 2016. Alaska and Mongolia first participated in A2AT in Hawaii March 2019.

U.S. and Mongolian military members participated in five working group topics for the 2021 A2AT: exercises and engagements, logistics, professionalization and education, medical, and high-level visit. The working groups discussed various subjects under their topics, such as growth, challenges, upcoming exercises, aircraft logistics, security, and more.

Keegan, who was part of the logistics group, said that they discussed best practices, offered and solidified subject matter expert exchanges, airfield operations, security forces, and search and rescue. The Mongolian Air Force has a particular interest in rescue capabilities and looks to the Alaska Air National Guard’s search and rescue assets for guidance.

The AKNG and Mongolian Air Force agreed to conduct upcoming subject matter expert exchanges and official visits in Alaska and in Mongolia.

“Our mission there throughout the Airman to Airman Talks was to work and develop together,” said Keegan. “We’re not giving them their objectives. We’re there to offer assistance and help train them.”

Keegan added that A2AT provided an excellent opportunity for Alaska and Mongolia to enrich their relationship, and they are looking forward to further growing their partnership and skills through this program.

Spc. Grace Nechanicky writes from Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs.