TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- The Honorable Pamela L. Spratlen, U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic, and Col. John C. Millard, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, hosted a transfer ceremony at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, June 3, 2014.
Ambassador Spratlen, Col. Zamir Suerkulov, 1st Deputy Minister of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Defense, and Millard gave remarks describing the significance of the transfer, noting the unique history of support and partnership between the United States and the Kyryz Republic. The ambassador highlighted the value of bilateral relationships and the role Kyrgyzstan played in helping Afghanistan.
Noting her own memories of hearing about 9-11 from her position in Moscow, Russia, she said, "I would like to reiterate once more the gratitude of the American people for the support provided by the Kyrgyz people to the U.S. forces and coalition efforts in Afghanistan."
Spratlen emphasized to the Kyrgyz and American audience that, even though the Transit Center is closing, "Our bilateral relationship and our friendship between our countries will, of course, continue."
Finally, she acknowledged how important the close working relationship between the embassy and the Transit Center leaders has been over the years remarking that this collaboration kept "ideas about how to position the United States fully aligned."
Former American ambassador to Kyrgyzstan from 2001, John O'Keefe, said in a letter written for the ceremony, "Kyrgyzstan stood out as among the first of many nations to understand the importance of bringing stability to Afghanistan and rooting out a hub for training and supporting terrorists."
Suerkulov highlighted the strong cooperation between Transit Center military members and the Ministry of Defense of the Kyrgyz Republic in areas such as aviation, medical treatment, engineering, language training and sports. He thanked both embassy and Transit Center people for such good work in the final stages of closing the facility.
Millard wrapped up the event by noting the impact of 12.5 years of operations at the Transit Center.
He listed the major accomplishments from the four mission pillars beginning with air refueling and the 33,000 missions flown by KC-135 Stratotankers. The aircraft flew 1.8 billion pounds of fuel offloaded to 136,000 coalition aircraft. For onward movement, he noted that more than 5.3 million coalition personnel moved through the Transit Center which was about 98 percent of all International Security Assistance Force and coalition forces going into and out of Afghanistan.
According to the Milliard, the airlift mission moved 1.4 billion pounds of cargo with more than 42,000 cargo missions. Finally, he said he took special pride in the humanitarian assistance mission.
While military members gave aid to Kyrgyz people in need from the start in 2001, the Theater Security Cooperation organization, which formalized humanitarian assistance, only existed for the last four years. In that time, the TSC had 37 local projects worth more than $4.7 million which was invested in such places as schools, orphanages and hospitals.
"We've perhaps gained the most out of the time we spent directly with the people of Kyrgyzstan, sharing cultures and creating lasting relationships," he remarked.
Milliard went on to describe 110 military-to-military exchanges, 188 social-cultural events such as talking clubs and education opportunities. Over all, the programs touched more than 7,000 local people.
After his comments, Millard presented a key to Col. Mirbek Imayev, deputy head of Kyrgyzstan's elite National Guard, as a symbol of transferring control of the Transit Center at Manas to the Kyrgyz Republic.