National Guard Program Enhances U.S. Global Partnerships
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
PRISTINA, Kosovo, Nov. 7, 2013 The National Guard State Partnership Program is an invaluable tool for the United States and for the nation’s foreign partners, U.S. and Kosovar leaders said here yesterday.
By a show of hands, National Guard members deployed to Kosovo indicate to Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mitch Brush, the chief's senior enlisted advisor, how many have completed state active duty missions for domestic responses before they deployed, Nov. 6, 2013. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“The National Guard State Partnership Program is our most productive relationship,” said Akim Ceku, minister of the Kosovo Security Force.
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo Tracey Ann Jacobson said the 20-year-old State Partnership Program, which pairs state National Guards with more than one third of the world’s countries, is hugely useful in building enduring partnerships with Kosovo and also regionally.
Ceku and Jacobson told Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, that National Guard processes are being emulated overseas.
For example, Balkan leaders are discussing using the National Guard’s Emergency Management Assistance Compact between states as a model for regional cooperation between nations facing natural or manmade disasters.
Grass also has heard similar observations during an ongoing trip to multiple countries to meet with troops, combatant commanders, other leaders and foreign partners. Grass said that the SPP is a critical tool in reassuring America’s partners about the nation’s continued commitment to enduring partnerships during a time of fiscal constraint and budgetary challenges.
With an annual cost in the $9 million to $13 million range, the SPP sees more than 600 events successfully executed between U.S. states and foreign countries each year.
“It is a reciprocal partnership that is just phenomenal,” Grass said.
In the Kosovo example, Ceku described many benefits for his country. For example, Iowa National Guard members are helping Kosovo improve its firefighting and hazardous materials capabilities, professionalizing its noncommissioned officer corps, and advancing Kosovo’s goal to become a security provider by one day contributing to overseas peacekeeping and other operations.
The Iowa National Guard is helping “make us become a force for good,” Ceku said. “You are a model for our society in many areas -- the U.S. in general, and the Iowa Guard in particular.”
Jacobson said the relationship has been a catalyst to non-military activities separate from the National Guard’s involvement, such as student exchanges and business investment.
Some of the SPP’s success lies in the National Guard’s unique dual mission supporting the Army and the Air Force in federal missions while serving as America’s first military responder at home. This construct also has the added benefit of attracting recruits who are professional soldiers and airmen with accomplished civilian skills.
During his trip, Grass and his senior enlisted advisor, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell O. Brush, have heard from Guard members about their multiple overseas deployments -- in one soldier’s case, eight and counting -- in the last 12 years.
They also heard first-hand accounts of Guard members responding to domestic state active duty missions ranging from support to national security special events to defense support to civil authorities after hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, snowstorms, flooding and the Boston Marathon bombings.
“We bring an extraordinarily rich tapestry of skills and experience to our overseas partnerships that our partners value tremendously,” Grass said, “and Guard members benefit in return. Iowa soldiers and airmen, for example, have brought home strengthened skills and an invaluably enriched geopolitical perspective.”