AL UDEID, Qatar - The West Virginia Air National Guard (WVANG) and Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) recently held the first official State Partnership Program (SPP) engagement between the two partner nations' air forces at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Feb. 10-14.

During the five-day tour, three members of the WVANG's 130th Airlift Wing and 167th Airlift Wing -- Col. Patrick Chard, Maj. Alex Hanna, and Chief Master Sgt. Todd Kirkwood, as well as SPP Coordinator for Qatar, U.S. Army Capt. Allen Jordan -- were provided insight into the operations of Qatar's air force and met with crucial QEAF leaders for a discussion on interoperability of forces and future engagement opportunities.

While visiting the QEAF Airlift Wing, commanded by Col. Hamaad Hadeed, the West Virginia National Guard delegation received a first-hand look at the operations and maintenance training facilities used by the QEAF and met with both the 10th and 12th Squadron Commanders, Maj. Yousuf Al-Hussaini and Capt. Fahad Al-Kuwari.

The QEAF operates both the C-130J and C-17A aircraft, similar airframes to what the 130th and 167th Airlift Wings operate.

"Not only do we share common airframes with the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), but we also share a collective mission focus and a desire to improve our operational capabilities. This partnership will prove mutually beneficial to both the WVANG and the QEAF," said Chard, who commands the 130th Airlift Wing's Maintenance Group in Charleston, W. Va.

The team from the WVANG had an opportunity to view the Al Zaeem Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Attiya Air Academy. The academy is a pristine Air Force Training center complete with a state-of-the-art C-17 aircraft simulator and loadmaster training system. The system is similar to the simulator used at the 167th AW in Martinsburg, W.Va., and provides the QEAF with advanced training capabilities for Qatari aircrew.

The QEAF is in the final stages of constructing a world-class Aerospace Physiology and Training Center, which is under the direction of Brig. Gen. Mohammed Almarri. This facility provides the full spectrum of aircrew physiology training and simulation including a 6G flight simulator, rotary and fixed wing full motion spatial disorientation simulators, hypo- and hyperbaric altitude chambers, an ejection seat simulator, and combines aircrew screening and medical care for their aircrew personnel.

Chard noted that "The Qataris have demonstrated a commitment to building a highly capable Air Force through the procurement of new aircraft and investing in some world-class training technologies."

"This engagement was an important meeting in the newly established West Virginia -- Qatar partnership that will build upon the United States' longstanding relationship with Qatar and will allow us to discern possible bilateral opportunities in the future," said U.S. Army Capt. Joshua Goforth, SPP director. "The West Virginia National Guard looks forward to the working alongside our Qatari partners to enhance interoperability of forces and grow our partnership."

the QEAF and WVANG that would take place in the future to include topics of discussion on C-130 and C-17 maintenance, current operations, aeromedical evacuation and showcasing Air National Guard domestic response capabilities.

The WVNG has been partnered with the State of Qatar since May 2018 through the Department of Defense's SPP. The two nations work to develop and engage in mutually beneficial military-to-military, military-to-civilian, and civilian-to-civilian engagements to increase military and diplomatic capabilities, training interactions, interoperability, and to deter and disrupt criminal and terrorist activities in the Middle East region.