CAMP MURRAY, Wash. -- Washington Army National Guard aviators conducted a State Partnership Program exchange with counterparts from the Royal Thai Army (RTA) in Lopburi, Thailand, in March.
“The aviation subject matter expert exchange provided a chance to discuss and share best practices in aviation standardization, maintenance, tech supply and logistics,” said 1st Lt. Taylor Payne, commander of headquarters company, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation and state airlift coordinator. “This exchange built off the past and helped build the foundation for future engagements.”
The two-week exchange was part of a State Partnership Program relationship between the RTA and the Washington National Guard that began in 2002. The program strengthens both nations’ strategic objectives in defense, government, economic and social domains.
Since 2011, Washington National Guard aviation crews have partnered with the RTA to conduct subject matter exchanges. The primary focus is assisting Thai aviators in developing a proficient flight program. After an extended break due to COVID travel restrictions, RTA aviation representatives recently visited Washington for an exchange.
“Getting the chance to work side by side with our Thai counterparts, both aviators and maintainers from the 9th Aviation Battalion, RTA was great,” said Payne.
During the exchange — which came while the Washington Guard was in Thailand for the Cobra Gold exercise — Washington National Guard members provided mechanics with expertise in repairing engine parts, rotor blades and instrument panels. It also was a chance to take classes with newer aviators on balance and rotor track.
“This trip was a success. The importance was truly placed on the continued foundation of the partnership and the need for concurrent participation on both sides to have tangible outcomes,” said Payne. “Not only did our Soldiers teach classes involving hands-on learning, but the RTA soldiers were able to teach us different techniques in maintenance, logistics and operations.”
The next aviation exchange is planned for later this year.