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​The participation of states like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia in Operation Inherent Resolve has paid dividends in combat and built legitimacy for the operation in the Middle East, according to senior USAF leaders. This cooperation was years in the making, though, and a key component has been the US Air Forces Central Command Air Warfare Center, based out of Al Dhafra AB, UAE. On the first night of OIR's strikes in Syria, AWC Commander Col. Mark Blomme told Air Force Magazine, the US strike package commander and the flight lead for the UAE contingent collaborated to prosecute strikes on ISIS targets. They knew each other well already, as they had been classmates at the AWC several years earlier. "Relationships pay huge dividends, but they take time to develop," Blomme said. Though a low profile effort for years, the strategic value of the center's security assistance programs "cannot be overstated," he said. "It has given nations in the region the confidence to participate in coalition operations in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria," he said.