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Foreign defense officials visit Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Defense officials from more than 30 countries toured parts of Ellsworth AFB and Rapid City Sept. 11 through 12, allowing them the opportunity to learn about the base’s mission and partake in cultural experiences.

The group also visited Mount Rushmore, laying a wreath on behalf of the Foreign Defense Attaché Corps, in honor of the 15th anniversary of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“The event was a Secretary of Defense-directed engagement for the senior military attachés throughout the world who are stationed in [Washington] D.C. with their respective embassies,” said Dana Powell, the chief of plans, programs, and treaty compliance assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing. “This is one of five base tours they do every six months to partake in cultural and military exchanges, which demonstrates our countries openness. It allows them an opportunity to immerse themselves, if only briefly, in our local culture.”

Staff Sgt. Robert Reichensperger, noncommissioned officer in charge of protocol assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing, mentioned the group also had the opportunity to engage with Ellsworth wing leadership, visit with military spouses and view a B-1 bomber during their stay.

The group traveled to Ellsworth as the first location among many in a tour of military installations across the Midwest region. In addition to South Dakota, they will be making stops in Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas, among other states.

Powell emphasized that this event was the first time the group had visited Ellsworth as part of its annual tour, and noted that the individuals from China were particularly interested in the base.

“They are very familiar with our Doolittle Raiders, in fact they still keep in touch with the last raider alive,” he stated.

Powell also mentioned their two-star general Zhang came with his entourage and was presented with a Doolittle Raider coin, an act of extending Ellsworth’s appreciation of Zhang’s country for giving safe haven to the raiders who made it to China.

“This is important because it strengthens international ties, letting them know how we operate day-to-day and see how we treat foreign nationals as they come to our base,” Reichensperger said. “They… were very impressed with how the base as a whole treated them once they arrived.”

Overall, the trip is designed to enable the corps of foreign defense attachés to meet with and hear from senior leaders in joint and operational commands and key supporting units from across the four services, with a focus on joint war fighting. At the same time, its purpose is to help encourage closer cooperation between the department and the participants’ respective militaries, according to event organizers.

“It was a great opportunity for us to shake hands across seas, borders, and with military leadership from different countries,” Powell said.