The National Guard State Partnership Program’s Undeniable Value
The relationships and knowledge generated through the National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) are of great and lasting benefit to not only the National Guard, but the nation as a whole. There are few other programs in which intermittent cooperative knowledge sharing events involving foreign militaries occur with such successful regularity. The SPP is truly a cultural and military exchange that strengthens bonds between military allies, while preparing all involved for an uncertain future.
The inevitable inclusion of foreign partners in future United States military endeavors remains a proven necessity. The ability to skillfully integrate foreign military command structures with our own is essential and various benficial partnerships unrelated to the program have occured as an indirect result of SPP ties. For example the state of Vermont deployment to Afghanistan in which units from the Army of the Republic of Macedonia served alongside members of the Vermont Army National Guard.
Having already proven SPP’s value both on and off the battlefield, Vermont continues to bolster program relationships through continuous cooperative knowledge sharing. For example, during an observational rotation facilitated by 3rd Battalion (Information Operations), 124th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), a newly commissioned second lieutenant from the Vermont Army Guard hosted Macedonian officers through an intensive two-week IO familiarization course designed to prepare leaders for the modern information environment. (Be assured, that young officer considered the event a valuable learning experience.) This instruction not only created more capable information operations soldiers, but provided a venue in which the Vermont Guard and Macedonia were able to exchange successful IO methods used in differing operational environments.
Another valuable aspect of the SPP, is the lasting association the cultural exchange provides both parties. The "host and guest" context facilitates informal discussions that ultimately strengthen professional relationships while providing opportunities for the host-state to share its culture. In this environment, dinner-table conversation ranges from supporting and raising a family to challenges faced by towns and communities. These basic exchanges afford military leaders a unique military and civilian professional growth opportunity.
With an ever-changing threat environment, isolationism often manifests itself as a crippling adversary. Successful modern militaries are culturally knowledgeable and able to understand not only the methods of their own echelons, but the tactics and habits of foreign commands as well. Bringing together soldiers, airmen and civilians to share information and skills helps cement long-term relationships and contributes to mutual understanding. SPP has established itself as an essential aspect of America’s soft-power and Congress should continue to authorize and fund this program.
Charles Martin is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Army National Guard. He’s in Washington, D.C., to participate in the 2015 NGAUS Fellowship Program