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Flags rise over Exercise Steppe Eagle opening ceremony

By Capt. Desiree Dillehay Public Affairs Office, Kentucky National Guard

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ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN, July 24, 2017 — Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 opened with the raising of the flags and the playing of national anthems July 22, 2017, at Illisky Training Center, Kazakhstan.

Maj. Gen. Murat Bektanov, Kazakhstan Land Forces commander, greets representatives from each nation participating in Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 during the opening ceremony July 22, 2017, at Illisky Training Center, Kazakhstan. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Desiree Dillehay, 149th Military Engagement Team)
Maj. Gen. Murat Bektanov, Kazakhstan Land Forces commander, greets representatives from each nation participating in Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 during the opening ceremony July 22, 2017, at Illisky Training Center, Kazakhstan. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Desiree Dillehay, 149th Military Engagement Team)
Maj. Gen. Murat Bektanov, Kazakhstan Land Forces commander, greets representatives from each nation participating in Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 during the opening ceremony July 22, 2017, at Illisky Training Center, Kazakhstan. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Desiree Dillehay, 149th Military Engagement Team) Flags rise over Exercise Steppe Eagle opening ceremony
Maj. Gen. Murat Bektanov, Kazakhstan Land Forces commander, greets representatives from each nation participating in Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 during the opening ceremony July 22, 2017, at Illisky Training Center, Kazakhstan. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Desiree Dillehay, 149th Military Engagement Team)
Exercise Steppe Eagle is a premier multinational exercise focusing on peacekeeping and peace support operations, and enabling more than 800 participants to build relationships and mutual understanding across nations.

Maj. Gen. Murat Bektanov, Kazakhstan Land Forces commander, welcomed the participating soldiers of Kazakhstan’s partner nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, and remarked on the ability to build relationships and conduct successful military-to-military exchanges.

Representatives from each participating country also had the chance to speak, and one common theme ran strong: building relationships with partner nations.

“As Soldiers we must always remember what ties us together no matter what country we are from: we have the most honorable positions in all of our countries,” said Lt. Col. Kent Cavallini, deputy commander, 149th Military Engagement Team. “Our countries and citizens depend upon us to defend them. Let this bond tie us together as we (work) hard over the next week, so that we may learn from each other and prepare ourselves.”

This year’s exercise also includes the opportunity for the Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Battalion to be NATO Evaluation Level 1 certified.

Exercise Steppe Eagle is designed to let partner nations work together "to conduct peacekeeping operations (throughout) the world if they are called upon. Before they can do that, they have to get accredited … in order to be assigned a mission,” said Cavallini.

U.S. and U.K. soldiers are partnering with the Kazakhstani peacekeeping forces as they conduct drills such as urban patrolling, convoy operations and civil military support operations over the next week, culminating in a NATO evaluation of their peacekeeping battalion during the second week of Exercise Steppe Eagle.