HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - The Georgia Air National Guard's 117th Air Control Squadron opened its doors to a group of visiting Colombian Air force officers as part of a State Partnership Program engagement, May 30- June 2, 2017. The week-long exchange on Ground Control Intercept consisted of tour of the squadron, discussions with subject matter experts on how to improve the Colombian Air force's training plans for controllers.

Master Sgt. Austin Blessard, Weapons and Tactics non-commissioned officer in charge, at the 117th Air Control Squadron, hosted the Colombians during the engagement, spending the week answering questions and going over training plans and standards. The goal was to show the controllers from Colombia how the United States Air Force transforms an Airman fresh from technical school into a Combat Mission Ready controller.

The National Guard's State Partnership Program is uniquely qualified to connect experts together for information sharing and exchanging ideas. The Georgia Air National Guard has supported the South Carolina National Guard's State Partnership Program in the Ground Control Intercept line of effort, pairing experts from the 117th with Colombian Air force controllers.

Blessard was asked by the Colombian Air force officers to assist in the discussion of training plans.

This was not Blessard's first interaction with the Colombian controllers, he's traveled to Colombia twice to support the South Carolina National Guard's State Partnership Program with the line of effort.

"It's critical that our tactical abilities align, so these engagements are extremely important," Blessard said. "A lot of the engagement was focused on US standards, and how do we make someone a controller." He added, the week's work focused on sharpening and improving the Colombian Air Force's training plans.

Colombian Air Force Capt. Roridgo Nunez, CGI Instructor at CACOM 7 in Cali, Colombia, said the team met their goals to improve their training plans during the week-long engagement.

"The most useful thing was how to build our air defense training school," Nunez said. "Coming to the US was a good experience for us, Nunez said. "And we made some new friends."

Nunez said when he returned to Colombia, there is a lot of work to do improving the squadron's training syllabus to mirror the U.S. Air Force's plan of continuous training for new Airmen.

Prior to the team's departing, plans were under way for Blessard and another teammate to travel to Colombia to take a deeper look at the Colombian Air Force's training plans.

Since its launch in 2012, the South Carolina National Guard State Partnership Program with the Republic of Colombia, has focused on establishing long-term relationships where Colombia and South Carolina can promote mutual interests and build lasting capabilities.