* Minister Xhaçka, General Kollçaku, and Distinguished Guests,
First, I would like to thank our host Lieutenant Colonel Dulemata for welcoming me to Farka Air Base, the future home of the Blackhawks. I hope this will be the first of many visits to Albanian military facilities as we continue to expand and deepen our defense relationship. As you may know, one of my top three priorities is strengthening defense cooperation so that Albania is an even more capable NATO Ally. When these multi-role helicopters arrive, they will feel right at home here among your professional, hard-working team, and stand ready for you to employ them to support the mission of the Air Forces, the nation of Albania, and the NATO Alliance. You set a high standard for others to follow.
Minister Xhacka, thank you for giving me the opportunity to join you today in signing the Letter of Offer and Acceptance for the UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters. You can expect these amazing aircraft, flown by your brave pilots, to perform diverse missions for many years to come. They can conduct search and rescue operations, fight fires, and transport troops into and out of combat, among other things.
Along with the aircraft, this program covers training for pilots, aircrew, and maintenance crews, parts support, and most importantly, assistance on institutional reforms to adjust tactics, techniques, and procedures to ensure these aircraft remain viable well into the future.
This program is an excellent representation of two Allies working together to achieve common security goals. As you know, this is not solely a donation of American defense equipment. It is a jointly-funded program, where both the United States and Albania share the financial responsibility of defending the Alliance. Albania continues to punch above its weight in troop contributions to the Alliance. This is another example of Albania procuring capabilities, not just hardware. These Blackhawk Helicopters and the joint funding of them show that, day by day, Albania is becoming an even more capable NATO Ally and a stronger bastion of security in the region and beyond.
The United States and Albania stand “krah për krah” today, we will stand “krah për krah” tomorrow, and all the tomorrows beyond.
Thank you for allowing me to join you today. I look forward to seeing this amazing country from the air once they arrive.
*as prepared for delivery