Security cooperation exercise Immediate Response 2008 begins with official ceremony in Republic of Georgia
Color guard members display the flags of the nations participating in exercise Immediate Response at the exercise's opening ceremony at the Vaziani Training Area, Republic of Georgia, July 15. Military personnel from the U.S., Georgia, Armenia, Azerb... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, Republic of Georgia -- Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen from the U.S., Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine participated in the opening ceremony here July 15 for the training exercise Immediate Response 2008.

Following an invocation by U.S. Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Scott Carson, deputy chaplain for the Southern European Task Force, and a blessing from Georgian Orthodox priest Father Nazzare Guenetadze, Soldiers from the five nations paid tribute to each country's national anthem as they stood in formation, symbolizing the start of the exercise.

"Over the next several weeks, we will live together, work together, and train together," SETAF commander Brig. Gen. William B. Garrett III said in his remarks at the event. "This is an invaluable opportunity to get to know and understand one another, to learn about different cultures, and to build enduring relationships between professional militaries."

"We hope to learn from you and promote understanding and cooperation between our forces as we strengthen our partnerships for the future," the general added.

Following Garrett's remarks, Georgian Armed Forces deputy chief of defense Lt. Col. Alexander Osepaishvili addressed the audience and the troops.

"Immediate Response 2008 serves as a tool for strengthening the friendship and cooperation and for sharing experience among participating states, as well as for training their staffs and units," said Osepaishvili.

"I would like to wish success to participating personnel and I deeply believe that this exercise will positively affect Georgian, U.S., and other partner states' relationship and will enhance our military professionalism," he said.

Immediate Response is an annual bilateral security cooperation exercise conducted by the U.S. with its coalition partners, focused on interoperability and designed to promote understanding and cooperation between the U.S. military and its allies.