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State Partnership Program

Remarks by
Ambassador Victoria Reggie Kennedy
State Partnership Program
June 16, 2023
Zeltweg, Styria

What a beautiful day! First, let me say to Minister Tanner, Lieutenant General Csitkovits, and Air Chief Brigadier General Promberger, general staff, officers and NCOs of the Austrian Armed Forces, what a pleasure it is to be with all of you today. You not only are wonderful leaders for Austria, but you also have been strong supporters of the State Partnership Program and of the transatlantic relationship.

Thank you for this excellent ceremony in recognition of the One-Year Anniversary of the partnership between the Republic of Austria and the Vermont National Guard. And thank you for the warm friendship and close cooperation on so many other issues.

To Brigadier General Harder and Chief Master Sergeant Stebbins and other officers and members of the Vermont National Guard team who have traveled from the United States to be with us today, thank you for being here. And thank you for your devotion to this partnership and for a lifetime of service to our country.

And to Colonel Erik Bauer, our Defense Attache in Vienna, and LTC Greg Cromwell, the Chief of our Office of Defense Cooperation, thank you both for your leadership and dedication and service. And thank you for your support of this program. We are so fortunate – I am so fortunate – to have you both.

Let me also say how grateful we all are to have LTC John Hern here. As the Vermont National Guard liaison who has been headquartered here this past year – and will continue to be here – Colonel Hern has worked tirelessly and with his trademark enthusiasm, alongside his Austrian counterparts, to help give life to this State Partnership Program. Thank you, Colonel Hern.

As we heard in Vermont in May last year and again in Vienna last July, the Vermont National Guard and the Austrian Armed Forces are working together in the State Partnership Program to pursue common security interests. Importantly, this partnership deepens the already strong relationship between our two countries a us both better equipped to respond to current and future challenges. And it deepens the human connections that form the strong ties that bind our two nations.

It is truly amazing to see how much has been accomplished this past year. Just look at today’s first of its kind fighter wing exchange that brings U.S. F-35s and Austrian Eurofighters together here in Zeltweg to share best practices in securing sovereign airspace. Fantastic, isn’t it?

But there have been other fantastic experiences as well this past year. A few examples – the State Partnership has also participated in the exciting Edelweiss Raid military mountaineering competition, the U.S. Army Ranger exchange, a cyber exchange, and discussions on green energy collaboration, among other things.

They’ve actually planned activities for the next two years, while continuing to deepen the partnership. By every measure, I think we can all agree that this partnership is a huge success.

This success, however, would not be possible without the most vital component of our partnership, the relationships and true friendships that are developing at the unit level between the Airmen and Soldiers from our two countries. These relationships are the very foundation of the partnership – the secret sauce, if you will — and they will form the foundation for the success of this Program for years to come. Through these exchanges – like today’s exchange between our two fighter wings – we not only work together, but we also learn together, get to know each other and grow together.

When we stand shoulder-to-shoulder as partners, when we collaborate and work toward a common goal, we are mighty and powerful indeed, well-prepared to face the many challenges that exist in this complex world.

We’re also mightier and more powerful when our militaries have the broadest pool of talent possible to draw from. While this is important across all specialties in the military services, it is certainly true when it come operating a single seat, single engine, high technology, high performance aircraft like the F-35 we’re seeing today. An F-35 demands a well-trained, highly skilled pilot who is the best of the best. And F-35 pilot First Lieutenant Kelsey Flannery certainly meets all those requirements. And, oh, by the way, she also happens to be the first female F-35 pilot in the National Guard. But she is by no means the last.

Because I believe deeply that if you can see her, you can be her. Lieutenant Flannery, we see you, and I know you will inspire many more women in the United States and here in Austria not to limit their dreams, but to reach for the stars. Because when they see you, they will know that they can be you.

I believe passionately in the U.N.’s Women in Peace and Security Initiative. The U.S. government does too. And I know that Minister Tanner is committed as well.

We know that creating a diverse and equitable military increases mission effectiveness. It also ensures that we are utilizing our forces to their maximum potential. But expanded diversity requires change, and change requires all of us, men and women working together, to be intentional about inclusion and opportunity to everyone. Teamwork. Partnership. Friendship. Mentorship. We’ll all be stronger and better for it.

In closing, let me again thank you for allowing me to be part of this magnificent day. And let me again say Happy One Year Anniversary to the Republic of Austrian- State of Vermont State Partnership. I’m excited about the possibilities for the future, including an expansion of the Partnership to include a ‘Whole of Governance’ approach, as we explore renewable energy economic and policy exchanges, apprenticeship opportunities in the trades, and University Collaboration, among other things. The possibilities are endless.

Congratulations to you all. I feel confident that the best is yet to come.

Thank you very much.