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Nigerian Air Force officers visit 129th Rescue Wing

Group Captain Son Igwe, along with members of the Nigerian Air Force, met and toured with 129th Maintenance Group personnel during their visit to the 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett FAF, California Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dan Kacir)

Group Captain Son Igwe, along with members of the Nigerian Air Force, met and toured with 129th Maintenance Group personnel during their visit to the 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett FAF, California Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dan Kacir)

Group Captain Son Igwe, along with members of the Nigerian Air Force, met and toured with 129th Maintenance Group personnel during their visit to the 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett FAF, California Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dan Kacir)

Group Captain Son Igwe, along with members of the Nigerian Air Force, met and toured with 129th Maintenance Group personnel during their visit to the 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett FAF, California Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dan Kacir)

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Airmen stationed here from the 129th Rescue Wing Maintenance Group put down their wrenches to help promote democracy and build relations with their Nigerian counterparts March 1-2, 2008.

"This visit marked the first engagement of its kind," according to Capt. Clayton Smith, California National Guard International Affairs Specialist. It was the first ever unit-level exchange between Nigerian military personnel and California National Guardsmen.

The five-person Nigerian delegation arrived in the United States Feb. 27 for a six-day visit in California. During their stay, the officers briefed with maintenance personnel, toured maintenance and operations facilities, and even observed a squadron change-of-command ceremony.

"We are here as part of an aircraft maintenance familiarization workshop," said Group Captain Son Igwe. "We came to understand how your logistics and maintenance operates. We've seen how information technology has aided aircraft maintenance, how you continue to improve, achieve perfection and consistency."

The Nigerian Air Force benefited from the exchange due to their work with C-130s in the Nigerian Air Force.

"Everybody here was happy to help and interested in providing answers," said Capt. Mike Sampognero, 129th Maintenance Operations Flight commander. "The Nigerians were very interested in the integrated maintenance data systems, our computerization of maintenance records." The Nigerians hope to acquire the same type of system through their own government.

The exchange was part of a California State Partnership Program exchange between the California National Guard and Nigerian Air Force. According to the California National Guard Office of International Affairs' Web site, the SPP brings the other partner country's officers to the United States for information sharing to assist with its armed forces re-structuring, modernization, and strengthening principles of democracy and free market economies. The California National Guard is partnered with both Nigeria and Ukraine.

"I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the American government and the commander of the 129th Rescue Wing for making the tour an enlightening one," Igwe said. "We're very grateful for this partnership program and hope it continues."