BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Pa. --
The commander of the 111th Attack Wing and his command chief based here participated in a Pennsylvania Air National Guard senior leader visit to Lithuania May 22-24, 2022. Lithuania is Pennsylvania’s partner under the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
Col. Deane E. Thomey, 111th ATKW Commander and Chief Master Sgt. Robert S. Ferguson, 111th ATKW Senior Enlisted Leader, joined a group led by Brig. Gen. Michael J. Regan, the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for Pennsylvania and Commander of the Pa. Air National Guard.
“The visit helped to strengthen the ties between the partners as we shared information from Joint Force Headquarters and each of our wings with the leaders of the Lithuanian Air Force,” said Thomey. “And in turn, they shared similar information on their Air Force and each of its commands.”
The Lithuanian Air Force has approximately 11 aircraft and about 1,000 professional military servicemen and non-military personnel. The aircraft are primarily helicopters and military transport aircraft. By comparison, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard alone has approximately 4,000 members and more than 20 aircraft.
The Pennsylvania National Guard has partnered with Lithuania since 1993 as part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program. Through this security cooperation program, the PANG has hosted Lithuanian personnel and participated in U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe and NATO exercises.
The partnership program allows the National Guard to partner with allied nations, like Lithuania, to strengthen relationships and interoperability, enhance military capabilities, and increase cultural awareness and professional skills among U.S. military personnel and their counterparts.
“As we visited their air base, air to ground bombing range and the construction site where our REDHORSE squadron is constructing a pre-engineered building, we identified several opportunities to grow our partnership by expanding the number of training deployments to build our relationship and interoperability,” Thomey said.
Thomey was referring to the 111th ATKW’s ongoing mission led by its 201st Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer (REDHORSE), Detachment 1 to construct a building to support the Lithuanian military.
After a May 19, 2022 meeting with Maj. Gen. Mark J. Schindler, The Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, the Lithuanian Minister of Defense had this to say about the ongoing relationship between the Pennsylvania National Guard and the Lithuanian military:
“We are grateful to the Pennsylvania National Guard for all the support to Lithuania’s military capability development, it is a direct contribution to a stronger Lithuanian security,” said Arvydas Anušauskas, Lithuanian Minister of National Defense in a Lithuanian Ministry of Defense news release. “Next year we will mark the 30th anniversary of partnership which is immensely important to us. The United States remains a cornerstone security and defense guarantor in the Baltic region. We are also very glad to see PANG troops training in Lithuania.”
So what does the future hold for the relationship between the Lithuanian military and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard from the 111th ATKW perspective?
“I expect that we will expand the number of training deployments and increase the number of squadrons participating,” Thomey said. “Additionally, if Lithuania invests in unmanned aircraft, I would expect us to provide some of our experiences and lessons learned in conversion and operations regardless of which platform they may acquire.”