JBSA-Fort Sam Houston –
National Guard leaders representing eight U.S. states and territories convened at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 8 to participate in a U.S. Army South State Partnership Program summit.
The State Partnership Program builds a relationship between U.S. states and partner nations around the world in support of mutual interest by using the National Guard as the catalyzing force and means of support.
"The National Guard State Partnership Program is a joint program of record designed to leverage the National Guard in execution of theater security cooperation globally in support of the geographic combatant commanders," said Col. Larry W. Dotson, Army South chief of exercises. "One of the key things the program does is to establish enduring sustained relationships with partner nations throughout the globe."
The summit opened lines of communication between Army South and the adjutant generals responsible for maintaining partnerships for countries within the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility. It also allowed them to discuss how best to achieve unity of effort in the land domain for shared theater objectives.
"The conference brings together state partners within the region, so we can have greater collaboration on mutually shared theater objectives in the Western Hemisphere," Dotson said.
During the summit, the adjutant generals discussed how to improve their ability to work together as a team and support the State Partnership Program's goal as a unified unit.
"The summit ensures the adjutant generals of each state partner have a clear understanding of the combatant commander's engagement strategy and Army South's requirements to support that strategy," said Col. Anthony Hall, Army National Guard chief of operations.
"Each National Guard state partner can then build plans and engagements that meet the intent and foster its already existing strong relationships with its partner nation," Hall added.
According to Dotson, there are state partnerships with 22 countries in the U.S. Southern Command area of operation and this most recent summit focused on eight including Arkansas (Guatemala), Louisiana (Haiti), New Hampshire (El Salvador), Puerto Rico (Dominican Republic), South Carolina (Colombia), Texas (Chile) and West Virginia (Peru).
"The National Guard support combatant command security cooperation goals and objectives by providing a consistent and stabilizing presence abroad, reinforcing deterrence, building capacity of U.S. partner countries for internal and external defense, strengthening alliances and increasing U.S. influence," explained Hall.
The program promotes military-to-military ties, builds civil-military relationships and encourages civilian-to-civilian links. Some of the program activities include emergency preparedness and disaster response military exercises and peacekeeping operations; border, port and aviation defense and security; and medical exchanges between the state and its partner country.
"The State Partnership Program keeps the dialogue open. Because it's a sustained relationship, many of the faces over the years continue to be familiar on both sides of the partnership and so that continuity of face-to-face engagement is probably the greatest value," Dotson said. "It expands upon that initial relationship and includes a wider variety of available expertise not only the military, but in state government as well."
The SPP plays an important role in Army South's mission to conduct and support multinational operations and security cooperation in the SOUTHCOM AOR in order to counter transnational threats and strengthen regional security in defense of the homeland.
"Anytime we can have a dialogue about security and cooperate on security problems in a positive manner, it's positive for the region and positive for the Western Hemisphere," Dotson said.
The Army summit adds to the accomplishment of the command's vision of becoming the partner of choice for regional armies to advance the common causes of peace, stability and prosperity, he added.