The top military official from the Kingdom of Tonga is in the Silver State marking his country's unique partnership with the Nevada National Guard.
Brigadier General Tau'aika ’Uta’atu and his small delegation gather by a hanger at the Reno-Stead Airport. They’re there to observe Air National Guardsmen perform some military drills.
“They’re looking at our helicopters right now," says Major John Brownell who manages the Guard's State Partnership Program. "We’re showing them that we use them for multi-function roles such as air ambulances, fire support, and disaster response, so this is something that they are interested in growing in the future.”
Tonga is a small island located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and New Zealand.
Brownell says Tonga's armed forces have knowledge that’s valuable here since Nevada’s guard responds to all kinds of disasters around the country.
“Our guys are required to have some kind of training and experience in tsunami response," he says. "Well, how do we gain that in Nevada? How do you train for a tsunami? Well, we have an opportunity now to go train in Tonga.”
The partnership also extends beyond military-based exchanges by focusing on developing diplomatic relationships and providing humanitarian aid.