WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Five Eastern Orthodox chaplains from the Serbian armed forces visited 88th Air Base Wing chaplains at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on May 11 during their weeklong tour through the state with the Ohio National Guard.
The trip reinforced the Serbian military’s 15-year friendship with the Ohio National Guard through the State Partnership Program, which pairs states with U.S. ally countries around the globe to strengthen personal relationships and bolster capabilities and readiness for both nations.
Although COVID-19 restrictions delayed many face-to-face meetings this year, Ohio Soldiers sustain and expand their friendship with Serbia through annual visits, exercises and discussions. Since 2014, Ohio Guard and Serbian soldiers have organized the annual exercise Platinum Wolf with other Eastern European nations to share and rehearse best practices in detonation operations, crime-scene investigation, patrolling and other military operations.
Ohio Guard leaders also visit Serbia as part of a CAPSTONE event for culminating discussions about the partnership’s accomplishments and future plans.
The Guard pulled 88 ABW chaplains into the most recent event, tightening ties with Serbia even further through a total force collaboration focused on caring for personnel spiritually.
“Serbia, for many years through communism, did not have a chaplaincy as a part of their armed forces,” said Col. Daniel Burris, Ohio National Guard state chaplain. “And so when they brought the chaplaincy back, it gave us a great opportunity to help them develop their chaplaincy as a nation and as a military and to develop a relationship. The important thing is the relationship that we have together with this European nation.”
Col. Kim Bowen, 88 ABW chaplain, and Col. Sasa Milutinovic, head of religious services for the Serbian armed forces, each briefed the group of Airmen and Soldiers on how their chaplaincies meet the spiritual needs of military personnel and discussed differences and parallels between their activities and approaches.
The Serbian delegation visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force following the discussion and lunch at Prairies Chapel.
“Someday, if the world does come to conflict, we understand and know our Serbian brothers personally,” Burris said. “So many times, religious faith has caused divisions around the world, but we have sought that it would bring unity, that the Orthodox, the Catholics and Muslims they have there in Serbia and our religious people here in the United States would be the tie that would help bring peace. That’s why it’s so important to have that training together and understanding.”