“Our partnership with the Ohio troops is one of the brightest chapters in our military history” – Minister of Defence Csaba Hende told Hungarian News Agency MTI in Washington on the occasion of a commemorative ceremony in the US Congress on Wednesday, May 15 to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the partnership between the Hungarian Defence Forces and the Ohio National Guard.

Speaking at the commemoration, James J. Towsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy noted that he had worked in the Hungarian sub-department of the Department of Defense in 1993, when an unprecedented experiment was launched to develop cooperation between a unit of the US military and the armed forces of a former member state of the Warsaw Pact. Today, this military partnership has already passed the test of cooperation in the theatre of war in Afghanistan, he said.

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Frank Grass pointed out that dozens of similar partnerships have been developed along the lines of the Ohio–Hungarian partnership.

Photo: Anikó Farkas

Maj.-Gen. Deborah A. Ashenhurst, the commander of the Ohio Military Reserve (OHMR) also spoke highly of the combined deployment of Ohio and Hungarian troops in Afghanistan to help with building up an army there.

Several speakers at the event noted that two decades ago, Ohio was chosen for partnership-building because many Hungarians live in this state, especially in the area of Cleveland.

In his speech delivered at the commemoration, referring to Lajos Kossuth’s visit to the United States in 1852 and to 1956, Minister Hende stated that “We have always felt the sympathy and goodwill, support and help – but we all know that this is not enough in considering the realities of mainstream politics”.

He pointed out that since Hungary has regained its freedom, “we are given the chance to work together guided by our common interests and values, in the spirit of mutual respect.”

Ohio Republican Representative Steve Strivers, a colonel of the Ohio National Guard said that partnership was helpful in deepening not only military but also personal relations and in learning from each other. Ohio Republican Representative Mike Turner, a member of the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives, thanked Hungary for supporting, as an ally, the cooperation between the United States and NATO.

Photo: Anikó Farkas

Two co-chairs of the Hungarian caucus in the Congress also gave speeches at the commemoration. Maryland Republican Representative Andy Harris stated that as a US citizen of Hungarian descent, he advocates the deepening of military-to-military partnership. Ohio Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur talked about the expanding scope of relations between Ohio State and Hungary, also mentioning the twin town relationship between Miskolc and Cleveland, and Szeged and Toledo.

Also present at the ceremony was Col. (Ret.) Árpád Szurgyi, a former US military attaché to Budapest, who had helped to start the partnership between the Ohio National Guard and the Hungarian Defence Forces.

Speaking about the bilateral partnership, Minister Hende told Hungarian News Agency MTI that an Afghan battalion (kandak) – trained by the joint Hungarian-led Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) – had been declared “combat ready” last year.

The Minister of Defence told MTI that this autumn a Hungarian–Ohio disaster management exercise would take place in Hungary, which would be a special one since the units of the Serbian armed forces would also be invited to participate. 

In the coming days Minister Hende will first attend a commemoration of the 20th jubilee at the Columbus headquarters of the Ohio National Guard, and then he will meet the representatives of the Hungarians living in Cleveland, and will be present at another collective oath of citizenship.

(Ministry of Defence)