By Joshua Cohen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
Vermont Army National Guard rotary-wing representatives with 86th Troop Command took part in an aviation exchange with Senegalese Air Force helicopter pilots as part of the State Partnership Program in Dakar, Senegal, March 13-19.
During the exchange, Vermont National Guardsmen and Senegalese pilots discussed accident causation theories, case studies on aircraft mishaps and crew coordination, according to 1st Lt. Daniel Phelps, a Vermont National Guard rotary-wing pilot and State Partnership coordinator.
“The primary goal was to conduct an aviation safety and crew coordination tactics, techniques, and procedures exchange with Senegalese pilots,” said Phelps. “Items discussed were capability overviews from the Senegalese Air Force, Vermont National Guard aviation, and The State Partnership Program.”
Capt. Joseph Davis, a Vermont National Guard rotary-wing pilot accompanying Phelps, said, “we had good discussions about culture and how it affects the safety of crew members working together to operate military aircraft.”
In Senegal, French is the national language.
“Fortunately, the international language of general aviation is English, so there were numerous times pilots were able to connect,” said Phelps. “Ultimately aviation programs face similar challenges.”
Vermont National Guard pilots took part in a tour of the flight line at the Ouakam Air Base and were briefed on base emergency response procedures. The Vermont Guardsmen also visited the Senegalese Air Force Flight School.
Phelps said the aviation exchange was the first in over five years and will continue later this year as Senegalese Air Force personnel are scheduled to visit Vermont for follow-on collaboration on aviation safety tactics, techniques, and procedures.
“These relationships are important for our countries individually and for international stability, so we must continue to strengthen them,” Davis said.
Phelps said scheduling the event took place one year in advance to “facilitate the continually growing relationship between Vermont and Senegal by improving interoperability and readiness for both partners.”
According to Davis, “training with international partners helps us see the bigger picture, how things are done from a different perspective and how we might be able to modify our approach to similar problems.”
“Overall, we can learn a lot from our Senegalese counterparts,” said Phelps. “They are dedicated and motivated with years of experience from supporting UN missions.”
The Vermont National Guard and Senegal have a relationship through the State Partnership Program extending back to 2008. The partners conduct several military-to-military engagements each year. Most recently, the Vermont National Guard deployed 15 Army and Air medical personnel to Saint Louis, Senegal to work in hospitals and clinics for about two weeks in Feb. 2022; the fifth such exercise since 2018. Last year, a Senegalese Fire Brigade delegation led by Brig. Gen. Mor Seck traveled to Vermont to further their understanding of emergency preparedness and response across all state agencies.