National Guard Adds Liberia to Partnership Program
By Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 14, 2009 The National Guard will add Liberia to its State Partnership Program this year, bringing to eight the number of African nations taking part in the program.
The addition fulfills a request Liberia, a West African nation, made to the U.S. State Department. Guard officials say the partnership program helps the overall strategy of U.S. Africa Command, which stood up last year. Kenya is expected to join the program next year.
Liberia's request for a partnership was vetted through many channels. A proposal was submitted to the U.S. Embassy, which then passed it on to Africom. They sent the request to the National Guard Bureau’s international affairs division where it ended up on the desk of Army Maj. Matthew Dankyan, the Africa desk officer for the partnership program.
Dankyan, who is originally from the Liberian state of Bong, then met with officials to discuss the program. "When they requested the partnership, we went [to Liberia] to explain what it's all about," he said. "From what I had observed, they had done their homework on the partnership before they even requested it."
Dankyan evaluated their military exercises to ensure a standard level of proficiency. After finding them ready, he started the process of matching them with a state that meets their needs.
These needs can be very specific. Some countries are recovering from war and request states with high engineering quotients to help rebuild essential structures. Some need help in planning for natural and manmade disasters, and still others want experience in farming.
"It depends on the needs of the country," Dankyan said. "If a country wants Air Force activities for example, that would be No. 1 on our decision metric."
For Liberia, a coastal state, the ideal partner would have expertise in ports and agriculture, he said. Dankyan said he has yet to choose a state partner because so many have volunteered to work with Liberia.
Liberia is just the beginning of a new cultural exchange with Africa, Dankyan said. Many more countries in Africa are queuing up for the knowledge and experience of the National Guard.
"Other countries in Africa are requesting to be partners, which I think is a good thing," he said. "Our presence will be recognized and appreciated in the countries that request us to be partners."
(Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum serves with the National Guard Bureau public affairs office)