Program strengthens U.S., host-nation relationships

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Voss
  • 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
More than 1,000 Manas Air Base servicemembers have a unique opportunity through the base International Tours and Travel office to get out of the base from time to time.

Each week, the ITT office puts together off-base request trips to more than 40 locations ranging from hiking and dining trips to tours through scenic locations throughout the country.

The ITT office does not handle this task alone; its takes a lot of behind the scenes work to make it happen. ITT relies heavily on the help of the base force protection office. The two offices work hand and hand to evaluate the locations on the off-base request listing.

"Once a request for a location has been placed, the base force protection office will conduct a site survey to determine if the location is safe for servicemembers to frequent," said Maj. Troy Howerton 376th AEW force protection chief .

Between the two offices, they work to ensure the safety of all servicemembers who frequent off base locations while adding new locations and revising the list of the previously approved ones.

"If a facility or location has operational and or structural changes, it must be reassessed," said Master Sgt. Larry Laney, 376th Force Protection superintendent.

One example of this work is the Hyatt Hotel in Bishkek. The Hyatt was removed from the approved location listing in July because of security concerns, but thanks to the continuing partnership between the air base and their Kyrgyz hosts, force protection re-evaluated the location and has since added it back to the off-base request list.

"The base leadership recommended we reconsider the Hyatt for off-base requests and we were able to place it back on the approved location list following a site survey," Sergeant Laney said. "The off-base request program offers Airmen the opportunity to interact with the local population and experience each other's customs and courtesies."

On a monthly basis, more than 225 personnel board buses and shuttles and head out to the various off-base request locations. While the trips provide a bit of a break from the day-to-day routine, servicemembers also help strengthen the host nation relationship and provide a small but beneficial boost to the local economy.

While frequenting local markets and restaurants is not the typical work you would see at a deployed location, maintaining a positive relationship with the Kyrgyz people helps keep the base on good terms with its neighbors and that is what the off-base request program is all about.

"Establishing trusting and respectful relationships with a country host is incredibly important," Major Howerton said. "We're glad to be able to do our part to make this happen."

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