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National Guard units provide service beyond the border

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kerry Jackson
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
National Guard units around the U.S. perform many non-traditional roles that take them beyond their state borders into other neighboring states, even into other countries. 

More than 14 State National Guards have partnered with Central and South American countries as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program, designed to link National Guard states and territories (approximately 51) with partner countries for the purpose of fostering mutual interest and establishing habitual long-term relationships across all levels of society. These two-way exchanges have a lasting impact on the U.S. and their partner nation citizens. 

"This program allows the Guard to impact the lives of people outside their state borders, outside U.S. borders and provides an opportunity for our citizen-Airmen to operate in a borderless, global environment around the world," said Col. David Tanaka, the National Guard advisor to the Air Forces Southern commander. "It provides us an opportunity to work along-side not-only the military leaders, but also the citizens of our partner nations." 

As part of the of U.S. Southern Command's SPP, Guard states are aligned with nations in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. The SPP supports U.S Southern Command's Theatre Security Cooperation objectives, which encourages and enables allies and partners to build capacity to defeat threats and prevent or respond to natural disasters. 

The office of the Adjutant General in each state manages involvement in the SPP ensuring units contribute to the overall goals of the program, including improving military interoperability; demonstrating military subordination; supporting civil authority; assisting in the development of democratic institutions in open market societies, and promoting political stability while projecting U.S. humanitarian values. 

The program has proven successful on many fronts. Since its start in 1993, the program has made tremendous contributions to the environmental awareness, advancements in medical treatment, civilian and military emergency preparedness and disaster response, non-commissioned officer development, military education and leadership development. 

"The value of the SPP is its ability to bring to bear the total resources of a U.S. State - its National Guard as well as its civilian law enforcement, environmental protection, education and emergency management agencies - with a single country or region in support of U.S. government policies, said Col. Philip K. Miller, Director of Public Affairs and Civil-Military Relations for the Kentucky National Guard. "This focus not only facilitates the establishment and sustainment of official working partnerships, but also permits the development of long term personal relationships outside the DoD." 

The colonel added, "This is a long term commitment by citizen Soldiers and Airmen to their counterparts in Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It is true friendship and two-way communication between professionals." 

These friendships have spawned a series of military exchange programs under the SPP mantle. Members of the Ecuadorian Army and National Police recently traveled to Kentucky to offer their expertise in ferreting out hidden marijuana fields to National Guard members and also worked alongside them in a military-support-to-law-enforcement capacity. 

The SPP allows Air National Guard units to participate in SOUTHCOM sponsored Medical Readiness Training Exercises that serve many underprivileged populations in Central, South America and the Caribbean. Medical care is routinely provided in dentistry, dermatology, gynecology, internal medicine, optometry and pediatrics all depending on the needs of the community. 

National Guard units partnering with countries in Central, South America and the Caribbean include: 

1. Arkansas / Guatemala
2. Connecticut/ Uruguay
3. Delaware/ Trinidad-Tobago
4. District of Colombia/ Jamaica
5. Florida/ Guyana
6. Louisiana / Belize
7. Massachusetts/ Paraguay
8. Mississippi/ Bolivia
9. Missouri/ Panama
10. New Hampshire/ El Salvador
11. Puerto Rico/ Honduras
12. Puerto Rico/ Dominican Republic
13. Rhode Island/ Bahamas
14. West Virginia/ Peru
15. Rhode Island/ Bahamas
16. Wisconsin/ Nicaragua
17. Kentucky/ Ecuador