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Oregon National Guard Forms Partnership With Bangladesh

American Forces Press Service

SALEM, Ore., Nov. 4, 2008 – The Oregon National Guard has established a partnership with one of the most populous -- and according to many at the State Department, one of the more strategically located -- countries in South Asia.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A delegation from the Oregon National Guard meets with key civic and military leaders in Bangladesh to discuss a collaborative partnership between Oregon and the South Asian country. Bangladesh is the first official partner for Oregon in the State Department's "State Partnership Program", developed to foster alliances between the United States and foreign countries. U.S. Army photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

A delegation from Oregon visited Bangladesh Oct. 25-30 to meet with military and civilian leaders and discuss a formal partnership.

"This is a chance for Oregon to reach out and share expertise in nation-building and to promote democracy and influence foreign policy," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Bruce Prunk, Oregon’s assistant adjutant general for the Air National Guard.

Oregon's partnership with Bangladesh stems from a national program launched by the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. State Department in the 1990s. The State Partnership Program was started to foster alliances between individual U.S. states and former Soviet countries, officials said.

Following formal State Department acceptance of the partnership, the Oregon National Guard began implementing a plan to make it a reality. Army Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, Oregon adjutant general, assigned the task to the Oregon Air Guard, since several Oregon Army National Guard units already were tasked with an upcoming deployment to Iraq.

Prunk said that besides building a civic and military partnership, Oregon soldiers and airmen also can help to support the Bangladeshi government by assisting with disaster-relief preparedness and training.

While Oregon has had relationships with several countries in the past, including Bulgaria and Austria, the relationship between Oregon and Bangladesh is much more formalized, Prunk said.

"This is the first formal relationship between any country and Oregon," he said. "I think it's very exciting for Oregon to establish a long-term relationship with a very strategic partner."

Rees said the Oregon National Guard can benefit from Bangladesh's skills and experience in peacekeeping operations with the United Nations.

"Bangladesh is the second-most-prolific contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations," he noted.

Bangladesh is an active member of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace, which is chartered with promoting post-conflict stability and development throughout the world, as well as assisting with amicable resolution to international conflicts.

The country also is a member of the Group of 77 Nations, a loose United Nations coalition of developing nations designed to promote collective economic interests for its members and enhance joint negotiating capacity within the U.N.

The Bangladeshi military also has a formal school dedicated to training in peacekeeping operations. The Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training trains personnel on key areas of international peacekeeping.

"It is a very professional school, which gives us opportunities to train there and learn their skills," Rees said.

Another important component to the partnership, Rees said, is Bangladesh's experience with natural disasters. In particular, the Bangladeshi government is interested in Oregon's emergency preparedness and response plan. "We can share information on these capabilities," he added.

The Bangladeshi partnership comes out of a meeting early this year in Hawaii in which Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Rees discussed a formal partnership between Oregon and Bangladesh.

"Admiral Keating's vision of Bangladesh's strategic role and location was instrumental as a catalyst for the partnership," Rees said.

Officials in Oregon and in Bangladesh are outlining key areas they will focus on over the next few years. Another Oregon delegation plans to visit Bangladesh early next year to discuss further details.

(From an Oregon National Guard news release.)

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Biographies:
Army Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees

Related Sites:
Oregon National Guard
State Department Background Note on Bangladesh



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