Missouri - Panama State Partnership Program comes to Whiteman Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt. Matthew J. Van Wagenen
  • 509/131 Bomb Wing Public Affairs office

Six members of the Panamanian Public Forces met with members of the Missouri National Guard March 14-18, 2016 as part of the Guard's State Partnership Program.

The Missouri Guard has been an official partner with the Republic of Panama since 1996. Although Panama does not maintain traditional military forces, the Panamanian Public Forces, which consist of Panamanian National Police, the National Maritime Service, the National Air Service and the Institutional Protection Service, answer to civilian authority and ensure the national security of Panama. Since the start of this partnership 20 years ago, Missouri and Panama have coordinated more than 100 engagements involving subject matter expert exchanges on an array of topics, such as military technology, early warning systems for natural and manmade disasters, and life-saving information for children's hospitals.

The visit to Whiteman by the members of the Panamanian Public Forces is the latest exchange following an earlier March visit to Panama City, Panama, led by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard. The visit, hosted by senior Panamanian government and uniformed service officials, highlighted trade and commemorated the 20th anniversary of the partnership.

"I am proud to see the partnership between the Missouri National Guard and the Panamanian Public Forces continue to flourish," said Danner. "Both parties gain insight into each other's culture, values and national security practices, and this latest visit shows the tremendous value added with the program."

Subject matter expert exchanges are an opportunity to learn from each other, said Capt. Benjamin Hanson, the Guard's aviation liaison to the State Partnership Program.

"The purpose of the event is to provide subject matter expertise on aviation life support and night vision goggles in order to increase the capabilities of Panama's aviation program," said Hanson.

This exchange of information and procedures helps the Panamanian Public Forces streamline their methods, which directly impacts mission success, said 1st Lt. Rolando De Los Rios of the Panamanian Institutional Protective Service.

"It is very enriching," said De Los Rios. "With the little bit of time we've been here, we've learned a lot from the staff."

The Guardsmen shared information regarding the safekeeping, storage and the how-to portion of maintenance of goggles for both aerial and ground use.

"The refreshment of information is good for us," said 1st Lt. Apolinar Guerrero Ortega, maintenance officer for Panama's National Air Service. "That way we can fix issues and get familiar with technologies and apparatuses."

During the group's visit to Whiteman, the 509th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handlers hosted a tour of their facility, giving the Panamanian Public Forces members a demonstration and explaining their mission.

The next exchange between the partners is scheduled to be held April 18-22, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The event, which will include the Missouri National Guard, the Panamanian Public Forces and Panama's National Civil Protection System, will focus on physical protection and sheltering of displaced persons.