State Partnership Program gateway to relationships in AFSOUTH Published Aug. 5, 2014 By Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala -- This week, Airmen from the Arkansas Air National Guard are working alongside their Guatemalan air force counterparts as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program. The SPP pairs individual state's National Guard bureaus with partner nations in order to support contingency planning and to build meaningful relationships between participating nations. "The Guard brings a unique dual federal and state mission and citizen-soldier character to the security cooperation," said U.S. Army Capt. Rebecca Rojas, Bilateral Affairs Officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy-Guatemala. "The National Guard has the unique ability to address democratic control of the military, foster civil-military relations and demonstrate military support for civilian authority, which is essential in the application of the SPP." As part of the SPP, health professions Airmen from Arkansas's 189th Airlift Wing in Little Rock, Ark., are sharing information about preventative health and individual readiness with members of the Guatemalan air force as well as assisting them in standing up an aerospace medicine program. "It's important for the U.S. to have strong partners," Rojas said. "The SPP helps strengthen our partner nations through various activities and exchanges that are mutually beneficial. Not only does it strengthen our partner nations, but it also helps increase our own national security." Air Forces Southern, as the air component to U.S. Southern Command, fosters numerous cooperative opportunities between the Air National Guard and their various partner nations every year. The SPP within SOUTHCOM helps shape cooperative opportunities, which aid in developing capabilities within the partner countries. The development of these capabilities helps advance democracy, promote regional security, support hemispheric cooperation and foster future economic opportunities. "Moreover, SPP opens access to state resources in the political, economic, and cultural spheres that are not readily accessible through the active force," Rojas said. "The ability of SPP to broaden the scope of cooperation beyond the military sets SPP apart from other security cooperation activities."