COLUMBUS, Ohio - Two Hungarian Defence Forces members and four members of the Serbian Ministry of Interior visited Ohio Aug. 5-8, to observe the statewide Vigilant Guard 19-4 joint disaster response and emergency preparedness training exercise.

The Ohio National Guard hosted the guests as part of a scheduled engagement through the long-standing partnership with Hungary and Serbia through the Department of Defense State Partnership Program, managed by National Guard Bureau. About 30 engagements a year are conducted with each country through the partnership, aimed at learning from each other and enhancing interoperability.

For Vigilant Guard 19-4, the Ohio National Guard along with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency partnered with local, state and federal agencies to engage in a realistic civil and defense support training exercise across the state to push disaster response processes and procedures to the limit. The participants were faced with different scenarios that tested their ability to initially respond and conduct subsequent emergency management procedures during the event.

"Vigilant Guard is an interagency cooperation exercise where we work with our state emergency management agency, our federal authorities, active-duty troops, private sector partners and other Guard members from six different states," said Brig. Gen. Steven E. Stivers, the dual status commander of the Vigilant Guard 19-4 Joint Task Force. "The exercise gets us ready to provide aid to civil authorities in the event of a disaster situation in Ohio."

By including Ohio's Hungarian partners, Ohio was able to strengthen its military relationship with Hungary through exchanging best practices and giving them insight on how to improve their own processes for disaster response.

"It's a great experience and I think a big step forward on the path of our partnership," said Brig. Gen. Laszlo Garas, the director of joint operations for the Hungarian Defence Forces. "There is room for improvement for the Hungarian way of business in this area. I saw lots of good examples and I'm very hopeful that I will be able to implement in my country what I saw here in the United States."

Ohio was also able to strengthen its civilian partnerships as well by engaging with members from the Serbian Ministry of Interior.

"This was a big and important experience because we saw a lot of new things, new methods and new technologies," said Milo� Milenkovi�, chief officer for international cooperation. "It is a good opportunity to take all of that back to our jobs and job positions in our country."

Being able to engage with partner nations allows every nation involved to learn from one another and continue fostering long-term relationships.

"It's great to work with our Serbian and Hungarian partners to help them build their capacities and have them see and learn from what we do right and sometimes what we do wrong," Stivers said.