Face of Defense: Soldier Prepares for President’s Ghana Visit
American Forces Press Service
ACCRA, Ghana, July 8, 2009 A North Dakota Army National Guard officer is on the front end of President Barack Obama's visit to the country later this week.
North Dakota Army National Guard Maj. Michael A. Holly is on the front end of President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Ghana. Holly is assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Accra as the bilateral affairs officer for North Dakota's State Partnership Program with Ghana.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Maj. Michael A. Holly is assigned here as the bilateral affairs officer for North Dakota's State Partnership Program with Ghana. He and his family relocated to Ghana last year, and he works out of the U.S. Embassy here in Ghana's capital.
For the past month, he also has served as the deputy arrival and departure contact officer for the upcoming presidential visit.
"This includes everything from meeting the aircraft to coordinating Ghana armed forces' honor guard, 21-gun salute and band," Holly said. "We also work the customs and immigration clearance of all personnel. This includes the press corps and all other affiliated travelers."
It's another unique mission for Holly, who worked as an observer during Ghana's January elections. His main missions directly involve the State Partnership Program, which North Dakota began with Ghana in 2004 as part of a Defense Department-sponsored initiative that aligns states with partner countries to encourage the development of economic, political and military ties.
Building these relationships helps Guardsmen learn to interact within cultures with which they are unfamiliar, an increasingly important skill, while also bringing expertise and knowledge to a country anxious to prosper, Guard officials say.
"Ghanaians are very excited about this event," Holly said of the president's visit. "While it will be short, they consider it a fantastic honor that President Obama has chosen to visit Ghana."
The trip will be the president's first to sub-Saharan Africa. According to a White House news release, the trip to Accra will highlight "the critical role that sound governance and civil society play in promoting lasting development."
"At times my friends kid me about being just a tooth on a cog in a large machine,” Holly said. “But from my perspective, being a part of something like this is another way to develop relationships with Ghanaians; and that allows me to better support the programs of our ambassador, Africa Command and North Dakota."
(From a North Dakota National Guard news release.)