CHARLESTON, W. Va. - The West Virginia National Guard showcased its domestic response and homeland defense capabilities to its partner nation, Peru, during a Nov. 21 visit by Peruvian Air Force Maj. Gen. Gregorio Mendiola, assistant defense and air attaché for the Embassy of Peru in the United States at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base and WVNG Joint Force Headquarters, Charleston, West Virginia.

West Virginia and Peru are connected through the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program (SPP) and the two have been advising, training and assisting each other since 1996.

The SPP was designed in 1992 to improve and build relations around the globe through 73 partnerships with different countries. In just over 20 years, Peru and West Virginia have partnered for more than 120 interactions between the forces providing insight into regional challenges facing the Andean Ridge, especially in the areas of counter-insurgency, anti-terrorism, emergency preparedness, risk mitigation, disaster response and recovery.

"It was an honor to host Maj. Gen. Mendiola here in West Virginia and to have the opportunity to showcase the assets and abilities possessed by our Soldiers and Airmen to respond at a moment's notice to our citizens when in need, said Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard. "There is a longstanding and successful partnership shared between the Peruvian military and the West Virginia National Guard and we look forward to increasing prospects for further training and interaction, to include economic development, with our partner nation that will come from this visit.

This visit in particular was instrumental in growing the strong partnership between Peru and the West Virginia National Guard, and for deciding actions and future programs for interchanging experience with training between the two forces.

During the visit, Mendiola was briefed on and saw first-hand the domestic response capabilities of both the West Virginia Air and Army National Guard, which included the aeromedical evacuation mission, C-130H capabilities, homeland response and joint operations center management of resources during disasters.

With hopes of aiding the Peruvian Air Force to obtain more advanced airlift capabilities in their country, members of the 130th Operations Group and 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron outlined the dynamic capability of the C-130H. From serving as a flying hospital providing round-the-clock care for patients, to ensuring humanitarian aid can be delivered to remote areas, Mendiola saw first-hand what the C-130 can offer in times of need.

Airmen from the two units also emphasized their skills as National Guard Citizen-Airmen, contributing to mission success through knowledge and experience gained in their civilian jobs. Aeromedical evacuation technicians and flight nurses possess a combined 14 or more years of experience in the medical field and aircrew members with the 130th Operations Group maintain similar experience levels and have extensive C-130 corporate knowledge throughout the unit.

Mendiola noted he hopes, "to continue to work through the Air Force and with the National Guard of West Virginia by crafting future programs and to do joint operations, exercises and subject matter exchanges in the area in order to help fight against natural disasters such as earthquakes and also the wildfires that are already occurring in Peru.

The interaction could prove to be one of the most successful to date. Mendiola was impressed after touring the facilities and learning how the West Virginia National Guard conducts domestic response operations and attracts high quality Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen to perform its missions.

With hopes of moving forward on initiatives to conduct joint training and operations as well as further enhancing senior leader engagement, the West Virginia and Peruvian partnership continues to flourish.