Kazakhstan shares deployment experiences with Arizona-Mississippi logistics team
By Capt. Gabe Johnson, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 30, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. -- A delegation from the Republic of Kazakhstan joined Air National Guardsmen from Arizona and Mississippi to discuss deployment planning and preparation for global peacekeeping operations, July 27-30.
Representatives from Kazakhstan's peacekeeping force, the Kazakhstan Battalion, or KAZBAT, and their parent Brigade, KAZBRIG, traveled from the Central Asian country to the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport to discuss their recent deployment experiences in Iraq and their desire to become more self-sufficient in preparing their equipment and people for airlift.
"Kazakhstan is a land-locked nation. Their military is very good at using rail and truck convoy to move equipment. However, they don't own enough strategic airlift capacity to get them to where the action is in an emergency," said Lt. Col. Greg Bliss, 162nd Logistics Readiness Squadron commander.
Colonel Bliss proposed the plan for the exchange during a 2008 visit to the U.S. Embassy's Office of Military Cooperation in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The premise was to include airlift control flight experts from the 172nd Airlift Wing, a C-17 Air Guard unit out of Jackson, Miss.
"They provide Air Mobility Command affiliation training," said Bliss. "Since they train us, we thought their expertise would be helpful to our state's partnership with Kazakhstan."
The delegates observed how U.S. Airmen determine axle weights and find center balance for vehicles such as Humvees and five-ton Medium Tactical Vehicles.
They were shown examples of how to palletize gear, and models of innovative mobility items such as a mobile kitchen and Internal Slingable Units, air cargo boxes that can be hoisted by helicopter.
Demonstrations and briefings on aircraft load planning, hazardous materials identification, the joint inspection process and in-transit visibility were well received by the Kazakhs.
"We're learning a lot from them and they are learning from us," said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Owens, an airfield manager and former loadmaster for the 172nd. "They are asking very good questions about pallets, weights, measurements and how to find the center of balance. Without this process, a load cannot be balanced correctly in our aircraft; the cargo gets 'frustrated' and the planes won't fly."
"And from our side, we are learning just how creative they are in finding ways to get the job done with their resources."
Arizona and Mississippi hope to join forces again as a mission support team in Kazakhstan within the next few months to expand the exchange and see how big the peacekeeping force is in terms of material; how many vehicles, how much equipment and how many people.
"We can create an airlift logistics concept that guides them on how to mobilize a company- or battalion-size peacekeeping unit for future operational missions," said Colonel Bliss.
The team won't be the first Air Guardsmen to set boots on the ground in Kazakhstan.
Maj. Andrew Chilcoat, a 162nd Fighter Wing maintenance officer, serves as the Arizona National Guard's representative to the Kazakh government. He left Tucson in April, 2008, for an 18-month tour at the U.S. Embassy in Astana, as a bilateral affairs officer.
He returned to the 162nd for the week to escort the group of KAZBRIG officers.
"Since the KAZBRIG is structured within NATO standards, their goal is to be deployable anywhere and to blend in with a coalition, NATO or UN peacekeeping force," said Major Chilcoat.
"Previously, when they deployed to Iraq they took people and engineering equipment with them, but the U.S. had to come in and prepare all of their equipment for strategic airlift. Other similar exchanges have proven to be very effective, so we're confident this exchange will help them reach their goals."
KAZBRIG isn't the only military organization to participate in the partnership program.
The Arizona National Guard organizes about 20 events per year involving nearly every facet of defense and emergency management.
"I think one of the most productive exchanges I've seen was the 9-1-1 exchange we had with the City of Phoenix and the Ministry of Emergency Situations in April. With Kazakhstan building an emergency call center, the exchange helped them answer many questions," said the major. "They are now using the European standard 1-1-2 for emergency calls."
"I'm really happy to see the relationship that Arizona's National Guard and Department of Emergency Management are building with the Kazakhs," he said. "The most rewarding thing is to see that the exchange program really works in terms of the continuity that state partnership brings to the program. Kazakhstan recognizes Arizona's contributions."
Since 1994, the Arizona National Guard has partnered with the former Soviet state via the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program - exchanging information and people for the purpose of fostering mutual interests and long-term relationships.