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Deployed Airmen build Azerbaijan partnership through mutual respect

by 2nd Lt. Kay M. Nissen
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

9/12/2012 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- A traveling contact team consisting of ten 435th Contingency Response Group Airmen and the USAF Europe Country Desk Officer journeyed to Baku, Azerbaijan Sept. 2 to 8 to lead an exchange event focusing on airfield management, airspace management and base communication architecture to bolster the Azeris military capability.

It was the initial operating capability mission with Azeri military forces in Azerbaijan by the 435th Contingency Response Group Building Partnership Capacity (BPC) cell.

Maj. Alfredo Laboy, 435th BPC, explained that the invitation from the Azeris was facilitated by Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe through the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan.

"It's real neat that they have an interest in how we do things and for us to get the opportunity to conduct a mil-to-mil exchange," said Staff Sgt. Bryan Carmean, 435th BPC. "They wanted this opportunity to work with counterparts and this is just one way to further NATO interoperability."

In preparation for the mission, 16 members of the 435th CRG trained more than 120 hours to complete the USAF Air Advisor course. Subjects covered included advising fundamentals, interagency partnerships, interpreter support, in-country activities, strategic guidance, and cross-cultural communication, among many others.

"Even the group physical training held during the formal Air Advisor course was geared towards further international literacy for upcoming missions," said Maj. Austin Burrill, 435th BPC. "We practiced soccer and studied the rules of the game to better relate to our partner nation military counterparts."

Team members were confident with their capacity to train, advise and assist foreign air forces at the conclusion of their training. In particular, Capt. Vanessa Zaragoza, 435th BPC, valued cultural studies.

"The greatest challenge was there were a lot of unknowns while we were preparing," said Zaragoza, who worked as the logistics director for the team. "The cultural awareness courses helped because we learned how to share our culture and keep our minds open to other cultures to enhance communication. It's necessary because we want to share our best practices to help them achieve their desired capacity."

The Azerbaijan mission was a milestone for the dedicated Airmen of the 435th BPC cell. The development and enhancement of a military counterparts aid the Air Force's goal of building mutually beneficial partnerships.

"Partnerships are critical to our Air Force mission," said Col. Mark Visconi, 435th CRG commander. "The strengthening of our relationship with the Azeri Air Force is based upon mutual respect, shared objectives and a strong desire to learn from one another in order to benefit both nations."

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