BELGRADE, Serbia -- Thirty Ohio National Guard members joined their Serbian military partners Sept. 8-15 for the annual State Partnership Program CAPSTONE event.

Every year, Ohio National Guard members conduct the visit to highlight the partnership between Ohio and Serbia. The events of CAPSTONE 2019 focused on cyber, chaplaincy, crisis communication, a medical field casualty care workshop and meetings between key members from the Ohio National Guard and Serbian Armed Forces.

The annual visit highlights the previous year's events between the Serbian Armed Forces and Ohio National Guard, said Gen. Milan Mojsilovic, chief of defense of the Serbian Armed Forces. This year, Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr. visited Serbia as Ohio adjutant general for the first time. Harris met with Serbia's senior leaders to discuss ways to strengthen the partnership, which began in 2006.

Harris met with Mojsilovic, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic (who led a delegation during a January visit to Ohio), Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin, Serbian Land Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Milosav Simovic and other senior military and civilian leaders.

"This is a good opportunity not only to summarize the activities, the tasks and the result achieved, but it is also an opportunity to define the activities for the next year and level of ambition of the cooperation in the period to come," Mojsilovic said.

In 2019, Ohio National Guard Airmen and Soldiers worked with their Serbian counterparts in training and relationship-developing exercises such as Platinum Wolf 2019, Exercise Neighbors (also conducted with Hungary, Ohio's other State Partnership Program partner), Cyber Tesla, Vigilant Guard and CAPSTONE 2019.

Through the State Partnership Program, Ohio and Serbia nurture their friendship by conducting exchanges that focus on both nations' military strengths and best practices in air and land forces interoperability, disaster management and professional development.

"The Ohio National Guard remains committed to our partnership and the development and stability of Serbia," Harris said. "It is important that we share tactics and work on interoperability through our exchanges. Personal relationships improve national relationships. As national relationships continue to grow, so will economic opportunities and better diplomatic opportunities, which is good for both nations."

The SPP program is designed to increase strength in peacetime to improve capabilities in times of conflict. The connection between countries enhances joint training, builds cultural understanding and collaboration to address international threats, such as terrorism.

"We have truly achieved a lot within the domain of military-to-military cooperation," Mojsilovic said. "We have always tried to arrive at mutual benefit within the process of conducting activities."

The 13-year-old partnership has served as the foundation to expand relationships between the nations to military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian interactions.

"The greatest benefit is the sincere friendship that (has been) formed," Mojsilovic said. "This will be transmitted to the generations to come."