Guard Eyes Pacific for Expanding State Partnership Program
By Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
HONOLULU, Feb. 5, 2008 Following successes in Europe, South and Central America, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, the National Guard’s State Partnership Program is expanding in the Asia-Pacific region.
“These partnerships are limited only by what the two partners want to accomplish,” said Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, characterizing the program as two-way relationships built on trust that outlives individual political administrations.
“None are more important than the ones we have in the Pacific,” he said.
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, has endorsed Bangladesh’s request to participate in the program and asked Blum to nominate a National Guard state for this new partnership. If approved, Bangladesh would bring the number of foreign countries matched with U.S. states to 59. Some states have more than one partner.
With five Pacific Rim or Southeast Asian countries involved, Blum predicted that much of the partnership program’s expansion in the next two to three years will occur in the region.
“Our nation needs to do this,” Blum said. “It is … absolutely essential in our international relations in the future.”
Keating said the time is right for expanding the program in PACOM’s area of responsibility.
“The potential and the opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region are significant,” he said. “Underpinning this potential is the requirement for security and stability, and that’s where we all come in.”
Life is better for hundreds of millions of people throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the admiral said, and he called the Guard’s State Partnership Program “a big reason” for that.
“The United States in its national defense military strategy sees the need to do a much better job than we have done … in increasing our partnership capacity,” Blum said. “There’s nobody better suited to do it than the National Guard. Any time you call out the Guard to do anything, you call out America, and this truly calls out Americans into an international program that otherwise wouldn’t be involved.”
Keating said his impression of the National Guard was profoundly affected by working with Blum on the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “I developed an intense and abiding appreciation and respect for what the National Guard does for our country,” he said.
A two-day Pacific State Partnership Program Regional Workshop here in late January, co-hosted by Blum and Army Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, Hawaii’s adjutant general, brought together Indonesia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand and their respective National Guard partner states of Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and Washington.
Foreign military chiefs, National Guard adjutants general and others discussed activities that promote mutual security cooperation, stability and progress throughout the 41-country PACOM area of operations. The State Partnership Program in the Pacific draws on the resources of PACOM, the National Guard Bureau, National Guard states, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. ambassadors and country teams, and other agencies and individuals.
The program started in the Baltic region of Europe in 1993 after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, focusing on matching U.S. states with former Soviet satellite nations.
“This partnership provided them a chance for the path to NATO and the European Union that they wanted to take to determine their future,” Blum said.
The program later expanded to South and Central America. Central Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific and Africa came next. No State Partnership Program relationship has ended, and none has failed since the program’s inception, officials said.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves with the National Guard Bureau.)