Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado —
Pokljuka, Slovenia – Colorado National Guard Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen participated in the 10th anniversary NATO Non-Commissioned Officer Winter Camp in the mountains of Slovenia, March 3-10, 2017.
The idea for an NCO Winter Camp developed in 2007 at a NATO senior enlisted conference in Garmisch, Germany, as a way to support and reinforce international cooperation, increase the level of knowledge and military expertise, and exchange experience and stimulate further development of the NCO Corps of participating NATO countries. Held in Slovenia, home to the NATO Mountain Warfare Center of Excellence, the event also acquaints participants with the historical, cultural and military heritage of Slovenia.
Three Colorado Air National Guard NCOs and two Army National Guard NCOs participated in the event alongside Senior NCO leadership from NATO, Slovenia, Belgium, and Slovakia and 34 other NCOs from 13 NATO countries. The event balanced lectures, workshops and hands-on tasks that focused on leadership skills, communication and team-building, as well as challenging mountain and winter warfare tasks like mountain climbing, repelling, avalanche rescue, skiing, cross-country and alpine. The culminating event was a competition among NCOs in a challenging biathlon course.
"This was the most rewarding event I've been a part of in my 18 years of service," according to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Matthew Mensch, 140th Fighter Squadron, COANG, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colo. "The training and focus on unity despite country of origin created some great relationships in the long-term."
The Colorado-Slovenia partnership is part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program. The SPP is a Department of Defense program managed by the National Guard that links U.S. states and territories with partner countries around the world. The military-to-military exchanges have supported Combatant Command security cooperation objectives, promoted regional stability, and increased partner capacity and interoperability. The National Guard has close to 80 partner nations.
The Colorado-Slovenia relationship, which began in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union, is nearing 25 years of partnership. It is one of the oldest partnerships in the SPP.