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Celebrating a partnership with Hungary since 1993

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On its 25th anniversary,
Ohio-Hungary partnership is more like a family

Story by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Ohio Soldiers review plans in field with hungarian Soldiers.Photo by Staff Sgt. George B. Davis, Ohio National Guard

Soldiers from the Ohio National Guard observe Serbian Armed Forces infantrymen working with Hungarian Defence Forces infantrymen as they conduct Exercise Neighbors 2015, Sept. 24, 2015, at the Ádám Voy Training Center near Debrecen, Hungary.

Leaders shaking hands.Capt. Sam Atkins, Ohio National Guard

Maj. Gen. Mark E. Bartman, Ohio adjutant general (2015-present), presents an eagle statue as a gift to István Simicskó, Hungarian minster of defense, at the conclusion of a senior staff meeting during his Sept. 21, 2015, visit to Budapest, Hungary. The Ohio National Guard has been partnered with Hungary since 1993 under the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.


Sgt. 1st Class Steven R. Johnson, Ohio National Guard

A Hungarian soldier (left) and his Ohio Army National Guard sponsor study convoy operations April 25, 2005, while attending the Army Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course at the 147th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus, Ohio. Six Serbian and five Hungarian soldiers attended the two-week U.S. Army leadership course followed by a one-week Total Army Instructor Training Course.

Leaders standing talking.Airman 1st Class Ashley Williams, Ohio National Guard

Command Sgt. Maj. Rodger M. Jones (from left), Ohio Army National Guard state command sergeant major, and Col. Mark D. Auer, commander of the 121st Air Refueling Wing, talk with Hungarian army Command Sgt. Maj. István Kriston Sept. 21, 2015, during a familiarization tour of Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus, Ohio.

Soldiers standing in gear outside talking.

Maj. James Eriksen (left), commander of Operational Mentor and Liasion Team (OMLT) 9.1, talks with a Hungarian army counterpart while on duty in Afghanistan, circa 2010. The ONG and Hungarian military partnered for several rotations in the early 2010s to train the Afghan National Army.

Soldiers in row.

A group of Ohio National Guard and Hungarian army soldiers stand in formation during a ceremony for one of the Operational Mentor and Liasion Teams (OMLTs), circa 2010.

Leaders around a table.
Ohio National Guard

Maj. Gen. Richard C. Alexander, Ohio adjutant general (1987-1998) meets with members of the Hungarian Defence Forces in his office at the Maj. Gen. Robert S. Beightler Armory in Columbus, Ohio, circa mid-1990s.

Leaders stand outside. Steve Toth, Ohio National Guard

Maj. Gen. John H. Smith, Ohio adjutant general (1999-2004), receives a tour of a Hungarian air force base, August 2001. Smith was observing more than 100 Ohio National Guard Airmen participating in Buckeye One, one of the largest State Partnership Program exchanges between the Ohio National Guard and Hungary since the program began in 1993.


COLUMBUS, Ohio — In 1993, the original “Jurassic Park” premiered in theatres around the country, Michael Jordan ruled the basketball court and the average price of gasoline was just over a dollar per gallon. It was also the year the Department of Defense established the State Partnership Program and the Ohio National Guard was paired with the Hungarian Defence Forces as one of the new initiative’s first partnerships.

The goal of State Partnership Program (SPP) is to link U.S. states with a partner country to promote regional stability and develop civil-military relationships. The Ohio-Hungary partnership was developed during a historical period for Hungary, including their membership in NATO.

Today, Ohio’s partnership is one of more than 70 in the program managed by the National Guard Bureau. The Ohio National Guard has committed its forces to regularly conducting joint military exercises and senior military and civic leader visits for the last quarter century. Twenty-five years and more than 300 combined events later, the partnership is still going strong.

Maj. Gen. Mark E. Bartman, adjutant general of Ohio, said the partnership has evolved through the years to more closely resemble a family.

“Members of the Hungarian Defence Forces have come to Ohio and stayed in some of my members’ homes and we’ve done the same when we’ve gone over to Hungary,” Bartman said. “We are brothers and sisters in arms. We are part of the same community working toward a common goal.”

Throughout the partnership, there have been a number of cooperation activities focusing on missions ranging from peacekeeping and joint training to leadership development. In 2008, the first Hungarians graduated from the Army’s Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course and a Total Army Instructor Training Course at the Ohio Army National Guard’s 147th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) in Columbus.

A significant accomplishment, according to Bartman, has been the ability of Ohio and Hungary to deploy together. Since 2009, there have been 10 rotations as part of the Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) in support of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghanistan. “To be able to go overseas and participate in the fight on terrorism with our Hungarian partners is one of the things our Soldiers who participated in those OMLTs will never soon forget,” he said.

Gen. Tibor Benkö, chief of staff of the Hungarian Defence Forces, said he has seen the value of exchanging ideas and sharing information with the Ohio National Guard.

“This is a very good example for our different countries, a very good example for the civilians, how we two work together, how we can serve the common interest,” Benkö said.

In 2017, Hungarian Defence Force soldiers deployed for nearly a year with Ohio National Guard Soldiers to Kosovo in support of Operation Joint-Kosovo Force (KFOR). Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., assistant adjutant general and commander of the Ohio Army National Guard, is a firm believer in the importance of co-deploying.

“The partnership is important because we have to maintain a sense of trust with our NATO allies, but that trust, both at the Soldier level and the senior-leader level, is something you can’t develop overnight. If we have to put our forces on the ground, on the same piece of real estate, at some point, that’s not the time to exchange business cards,” Harris said.

David Kostelancik, chargé d’ affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, said the Ohio National Guard and Hungarian Defence Forces relationship has many benefits.

“At the individual level, a generation of soldiers from both countries has developed friendships that extend far beyond deployments in places including Afghanistan and Kosovo, where soldiers worked shoulder to shoulder. All of these things strengthen the entire NATO alliance,” Kostelancik said.

There are 74 SPP partnerships between U.S. states, territories, the District of Columbia and countries around the world. In addition to Hungary, Ohio has also been paired with Serbia since 2006.

“The national security environment is ever-changing,” observed Army Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Lawson, the National Guard Bureau’s vice director of strategy, policy, plans and international affairs. “In order to promote greater peace and stability in the world, long into the future, we will need a program like the SPP, because it helps nations transition from security consumers to security providers.”

Lawson congratulated Ohio and Hungary for their “exceptional cooperation” in the past two-and-a-half decades as society and technology have changed.

Today, in 2018, the fifth movie in the “Jurassic Park” series will premiere in theatres this summer, some would argue LeBron James is the king of basketball and the average cost of gasoline is just under $3.

It’s also the year the Ohio National Guard celebrates a 25-year partnership with Hungary, a relationship built on commitment, trust and family-like bonds that have been strengthened since 1993.


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