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Colorado Guard members judge international air meet in Jordan

MWAFFAQ SALTI AIR BASE, Jordan -- It's not every day one gets to meet a prince, but that's what 12 Colorado National Guard Airmen did in May.

The 12 traveled to Jordan for three weeks for the first-ever Falcon Air Meet.

The F-16 competition was inspired by Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein, special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces, and sponsored by the U.S. Central Command Air Forces.

Prince Feisal's vision became reality when the 522nd Fighter Squadron from Cannon AFB, the Turkish Air Force and the Royal Jordanian Air Force competed in Falcon Air Meet 2006.

Members of the 140th Wing were asked to participate as judges for the event because of their state partnership with Jordan, a partnership formally established in 2004.

The National Guard's State Partnership Program links states with partner countries to develop long-term relationships to both parties across various levels of military and civilian activities.

"I think the State Partnership Program is a great program and I can say without any hesitation, 'Colorado Air National Guard, we could not have done the Falcon Air Meet without you'," said Col. Mohammed Omari, Wing Commander of Mwaffaq Salti Air Base. "The Falcon Air Meet idea started in Jordan, but the implementation started with Colorado."

Along with the competitors were several observing countries - including Bahrain, Italy, Oman, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia - that plan to participate in the next Falcon Air Meet.

The event was the first of its kind in the Middle East, with the goal of fostering strong relationships between the air forces of the U.S. and Middle Eastern countries and promoting stability in the region.

The concept was to have these countries participate in a friendly competition centered on the world's only multi-role fighter jet, Lockheed Martin's F-16 Fighting Falcon.

"The idea was to get all the F-16 users in the region to exercise and hopefully learn from each other and exchange information," Prince Feisal said. "The nice thing about making it a competition is that you get the best of the teams together and with the smartest and brightest people working together they tend to learn from one another. The idea eventually will be to make this more of a coalition exercise."

Airmen from the 140th Wing provided their best of the best for judges to include pilots, maintenance experts and specialists in weapons and range operations.

The competitive events were considered fundamental tasks for pilots and maintainers: an alert scramble, air-to-ground attack, air-to-air intercept, bomb loading, formation arrival, large force employment and overall quality assessment.

Although the point difference was small, the Jordanians and the Americans tied for first place in the air meet. When the competition ended, the Americans, Turks and Jordanians spent time learning about each other's countries and customs.

During the closing ceremonies, everyone experienced traditional Arab culture, including food, music and dance. It is experiences like these that Guard members said they would never forget - partnership on a personal level.

"The state partnership with Jordan has been a great benefit for Colorado," said Col. Greg Graf, operations director, joint force headquarters, Colorado Air National Guard. "It's given the state of Colorado an opportunity to be a player in world politics in fostering a great relationship with one of our best allies in the region. Jordan has been instrumental in maintaining regional security and has been a great partner with the United States."

A partnership like Jordan and Colorado's can help pave the way for Prince Feisal's future aspirations of coalition exercises. Leaders from both Colorado and Jordan units believe the partnership is a good fit because of their force size, common equipment and being able to accomplish missions with limited resources.

"We've had a good experience with the Colorado Air National Guard, and we are looking at ways to expand that friendship," Prince Feisal said. "Colorado is a very good fit for us because we have a lot of common equipment; there are a lot of opportunities to expand it well beyond just purely the air force, such as medical and civil defense. The partnership does bring people together to learn from each other's experiences and I think it is a fantastic program."
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