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South African General visits Hancock Field

Brig. Gen. Kevin W. Bradley, Assistant Adjutant General for Air (left), speaks with Brig. Gen. Mashoro Abel Phala, Defense Attache with the South African Embassy (right), during his visit to the 152nd Air Operations Group. Gen. Phala visited for the purpose of strengthening relationships through the State Partnership Program. (New York Air National Guard Photo By Senior Airman Duane Morgan)

Brig. Gen. Kevin W. Bradley, Assistant Adjutant General for Air (left), speaks with Brig. Gen. Mashoro Abel Phala, Defense Attache with the South African Embassy (right), during his visit to the 152nd Air Operations Group. Gen. Phala visited for the purpose of strengthening relationships through the State Partnership Program. (New York Air National Guard Photo By Senior Airman Duane Morgan)

HANCOCK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SYRACUSE, Ny. -- Brig. Gen. Mashoro Abel Phala, Defense Attaché of the South African Embassy and Maj. Gen. Eric W. Vollmecke, Air National Guard Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, United States Air Forces in Europe/ Air Forces Africa, visited the 152nd Air Operations Group here on 7 June 2014.

Phala's visit was for the purpose of strengthening relationships with other countries through our State Partnership Program. Vollmecke leads all engagements involving the National Guard's SPP.

Having evolved from a command decision in 1991 to set up the Joint Contact Team Program, The SPP has created 68 partnerships with 74 countries over 20 years by conducting military-to-military engagements that support defense security goals. Most states have a counterpart from another country and have a mutually beneficial relationship. New York's counterpart is South Africa.

"Whether we travel there or they travel here, we just want to get airman to airman interaction," said Col. Michael V. Comella, Commander of the 152nd AOG. "This would give us the opportunity to find a number of subject matter experts (SME) in the South African Air Force."

Through the SPP the 152nd would be able to demonstrate the Joint Operations Planning Process-Air (JOPPA), which would aid the South African Air Force by placing them side by side with the 152nd SME.

"We both stand to benefit from learning each other's process," said Comella. "We get to learn as well as share knowledge with the South African Air Force."

Phala received a tour of not only the 152nd AOG, but of other units at Hancock Field. The 274th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) and the Field Training Detachment (FTD).

Phala attended the 152nd retirement ceremony, but due to travel arrangements, had to leave earlier than expected.

"Before he left, he turned to me and said this is not goodbye, this is just the beginning," said Comella.