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Building Relationships; Partners for Peace

144th Fighter Wing takes part in Safe sky 2018at Starokostiantyniv Air Base, Ukraine.

As flags are raised for the participating countries the sun peaks through the morning fog at Starokostiantyniv Air Base, Ukraine, Oct. 10 as the second day of air operations for Clear Sky 2018 is about to start. Clear Sky 18 provides participating nations a training opportunity to enhance their capability to conduct multinational and coalition operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

KYIV, Ukraine --

Relationships.  It is all about relationships.  This is the resounding theme from all individuals involved in the State Partnership Program that bonds the United States and Ukraine.

An important facet of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and the U.S. European Command is the Office of Defense Cooperation based in Kyiv, Ukraine with a common goal that a strengthened, resilient Ukraine contributes to regional stability and is effective in responding to domestic and transnational security challenges.

The ODC plans and executes security cooperation and other military-to-military programs with Ukrainian armed forces to further partner development goals of EUCOM.   

“We wear many hats, but our goal at ODC is one team, one fight.  We are the connectors, and it takes many people to connect all of our programs, agencies, and engagement efforts between the two countries,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles B. Hill, Bilateral Affairs Branch Chief, ODC. 

Of the 20 plus people assigned to the ODC, with various services (U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force), many are members of the California National Guard, providing an in-depth look at the programs and growing relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine. 

These assignments allow U.S. personnel the ability to gain familiarity of this part of the world, customs, cultures, traditions, and study the regional sensitivities and embrace the language.

For example, Hill is on a three-year assignment to the ODC and is a member of the California Air National Guard.

“While this is a very challenging assignment and you have a lot to learn upon taking the job, it is a strategic level position that is unique and extremely rewarding,” added Hill.  

As the Bilateral Affairs Officer, Hill is The Adjutant General for California’s forward presence in theater, helping to develop military-to-military events.

Similar to many military assignments, the ODC rotates people and positions, but cooperation and partnership with Ukraine have stayed consistent for 25 years.

“Military cooperation is like a big ship on a course, the crews change out, but the course is pretty much the same.  We stay consistent and have enjoyed a consistent 25-year relationship with Ukraine.  Post 2014, we have picked up speed on the course and we are now moving more quickly towards our common goals,” said U.S. Army Col. Robert Peters, Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation. 

Peters shared his top goal moving forward with Ukraine and the State Partnership Program, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary of partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine.

“Our goal is to work with them while honoring their right to choose to more towards the West.  As part of that, we help them defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity through our defense corroboration programs,” said Peters.  

Engagements are a large component of the State Partnership Program and the Clear Sky 2018 exercise currently taking place on Starokonstantinov Air Base, Ukraine. 

“For this exercise, what ODC does is a piece of a big pie,” said Peters. “The Clear Sky 2018 exercise is a very visible, high profile event, and our role is to augment what is planned and executed by USAFE and the California ANG.  We help fill the gaps, and the State Partnership Program is a huge component of that.  It’s all about relationships and no one comes close to what the California ANG SPP brings in terms of consistency and continuity.”