JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Military leaders from 20 states descended upon Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 18 in support of the Department of Defense joint security cooperation program, managed by the National Guard Bureau that matches the states/territories of National Guards within the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility of Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Eight State adjutant generals, five assistant adjutant generals, seven deputy joint chiefs of staff, one Army National Guard deputy director and 15 command sergeants major, along with a host of military delegates, convened at the Mission Training Complex to discuss a multitude of topics. The State Partnership Program, or SPP, involves 20 states/territories partnered with 23 countries in 29 foreign nations.
“The purpose of the event is to achieve unity of effort among Army components in the United States SOUTHCOM area of operations,” said Maj. Gen. K.K. Chinn, U.S. Army South commander. “Our goals are to share information through senior leader engagement, address operational focus and to discuss future requirements and synchronize the land forces community of interest in the area.”
In this program National Guard units, like the South Carolina National Guard, are paired with another country’s military organization, such as Colombia. Through these partnerships, the two militaries work together to achieve enduring and mutually beneficial security goals, exchange military skills and experience, and share in defense knowledge.
Previous examples of military cooperation in action include the Suriname/South Dakota women in the military subject matter expert exchange in March 2016 when best practices and ideas were exchanged on the importance of women in the military. The discussion topics included physical fitness, maternity leave and career advancement.
Other exchange opportunities took place in 2016 including the Delaware National Guard and Trinidad and Tobago, when engineers from the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Forces and U.S. Embassy personnel collaborated to rehabilitate a school that doubles as a disaster relief center for approximately 1000 citizens.
Most recently, the Georgia National Guard was selected as the U.S. partner for the Republic of Argentina in November 2016. Not unfamiliar with the program or a partnership, the Georgia National Guard will also maintain their previous partnership with the country of Georgia with whom they’ve partnered since 1994.
“The SPP allows us to leverage the deep and trusting ties the National Guard has built with a very large group of foreign allies across every combatant command,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief, National Guard Bureau. “I’m confident the Georgia National Guard and Argentina will both benefit from the extraordinarily rich tapestry of skills and experience each will bring to this partnership.”
This year’s conference included briefs from every state on the lessons learned from 2016, planned events for fiscal year 2017, discussions on the events supporting the southern command and Army South lines of efforts and the long range plan for each state/partner for the next three to five years.
Connecticut, paired with Uruguay, spoke about the value and importance in Defense Support to Civil Authorities and the relevance of having a flexible and responsive force in times of crisis. Planned events between the two militaries for 2017 include a scheduled mission planned for August 2017 in which 40 infantry Soldiers will travel to Uruguay with a focus on the mission essential task list skills.
The SPP conference concluded Jan. 19 with more than 150 delegates in attendance returning to their respective states armed with new ideas, networks and guidance moving into 2017.