JORDAN (AFNS) – When Airmen from the Colorado National Guard's 140th Wing arrived May 11 as judges for exercise Eager Tiger here, it marked the reunion of a partnership 10 years in the making.
The Colorado National Guard and the military branches of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan were paired in 2004 under the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, which aims to partner states and countries for mutually beneficial relationships.
Known by the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces as Falcon Air Meet, this annual exercise was developed to bring together F-16 Fighting Falcon units at an air base in northern Jordan. Although aircraft from the 140th Wing have participated in the past, the Airmen here this year supported Eager Tiger by judging the week's competitions.
For both countries, having such a long-term relationship means that the reunion for Eager Tiger each year is much more than an exercise.
"It really is like coming home to a family," said Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, adjutant general of the Colorado National Guard. "This partnership means so much to us in Colorado. When we have folks return from visiting Jordan for the first time, they can't wait to come back. Jordanians are such a warm, hospitable people."
His Royal Highness Prince Feisal bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who developed the idea for Eager Tiger, didn't hesitate to agree with that sentiment.
"It's a partnership in name, but a brotherhood in reality," Faisal said. "I think that is critical when you look at the different environments that we work in. When we deployed in Unified Protector, to be very honest, if it had not been for the Colorado Guard officers who deployed with us, our ability to integrate would have taken far longer.
"I think building that relationship, that trust, that familiarity and that understanding has been outstanding," he added. "There's so much we can do together and this has been a great experience for us."
Although the two were paired because of their F-16 capabilities, they have since found other ways to collaborate.
"When you look at Jordan and when you look at Colorado, we share many common issues," Edwards said. "For example, we both struggle with water. In Colorado, we're worrying about a drought now in some of our farmland and how to best manage water. Jordan does some amazing things in conservation, dealing with water situations, that we need to learn to ensure we're doing the right thing."
Both Faisal and Edwards said they hope to keep expanding the partnership in the future, both in regard to the Falcon Air Meet and in other avenues they are exploring.
"We're grateful and very happy that Colorado was selected," said the prince of the pairing between the two F-16 forces. "Ten years on, we continue to work. We continue to try and expand that. With Gen. Edwards and the leadership in Colorado, I think this partnership is going to continue to strengthen."