With a wide smile on his face, Jordanian Army Lt. Col. Bashar Alrefai sat in the rear of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as it soared 500 feet above the colossal Rocky Mountains in Colorado Sept. 16.
“It’s beautiful,” he yelled, barely audible in the noisy cabin of the helicopter, as he snapped away pictures on his point-and-shoot camera. Seconds later he dug into his pocket, pulled out a cherry Jolly Rancher, peeled off the wrapper and popped it in his mouth. Captivated by the scenery below and on the horizon, Bashar then continued firing off photos.
Bashar’s flight was part of a week-long familiarization visit to Colorado along with five other Jordanian military officers including Royal Jordanian Air Force Brig. Gen. William A. Alamat.
The week-long visit took the group, escorted by Colorado Army National Guard Col. Marty Biastoch and Maj. Eddie Gonzalez, up and down the Front Range and into the mountains to see COARNG facilities as well as scenic landmarks and sights of interest.
The group departed from Centennial Airport in Centennial, stopped over at a cold Lake County Airport – North America’s highest airport at 9,000 feet – and flew on to Field Maintenance Shop No. 3 in Grand Junction, where they took a brief tour of the facility. FMS 3 is best known for the Humvee rebuild program, which takes Humvees from all over the state and upgrades them.
“This was probably the highlight of the trip,” said Jordanian Army Lt. Col. Wassfi Tanash. “Getting to see this beautiful state from the air – it’s quite a sight.”
It was the first visit to Colorado for all of the Jordanian officers.
“They seemed to have had a good time,” said Gonzalez. “Most importantly though, missions like this help build the relationship we started seven years ago so that we can understand each other’s military and how we operate. The primary means of this is communication.”
Biastoch, who had the privilege of being the commanding officer in charge of the visit, couldn’t agree more and briefly touched on the benefit of this communication.
“It’s important for us to be able to share with each other what we do,” she said. “So they can take back knowledge to help improve their organizations and we can take information from them to help us improve.”
Familiarization visits are coordinated through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, a joint Army and Air Guard program designed to foster good relations between the U.S. and our allied country’s militaries. Each state’s National Guard has at least one state partner. Colorado is linked with Jordan and Slovenia.