National Guard March 2013 : Page 26

BIND By Ron Jensen Ties That AFP PHOTO/ HRVOJE What began 20 years ago as a handful of mil-to-mil partnerships between states and the fledgling democracies of Eastern Europe has evolved into so much more 26 SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador HE DIPLOMATS WORE ACUs. They stood at the front of a small darkened classroom on a military facility in this country’s capital city and spoke for two days about computer security. Their audience was 18 El Salvadoran service members and civilian employ-ees of the military. The visitors talked passwords and firewalls and anti-virus software while two women in the back of the room closed their eyes in concentration and translated each remark, each question and each answer. “The problem is, the bad guys are always coming out with new viruses,” Staff Sgt. Neil Westerberg of the New Hampshire National Guard’s comput-er-network defense team said as part of his presentation. During the two days of classes in T | Na tional Guard

Ties That Bind

Ron Jensen

What began 20 years ago as a handful of mil-to-mil partnerships between states and the fledgling democracies of Eastern Europe has evolved into so much more<br /> <br /> TSAN SALVADOR, El Salvador HE DIPLOMATS WORE ACUs.<br /> <br /> They stood at the front of a small darkened classroom on a military facility in this country’s capital city and spoke for two days about computer security.Their audience was 18 El Salvadoran service members and civilian employees of the military.<br /> <br /> The visitors talked passwords and firewalls and anti-virus software while two women in the back of the room closed their eyes in concentration and translated each remark, each question and each answer.<br /> <br /> “The problem is, the bad guys are always coming out with new viruses,” Staff Sgt. Neil Westerberg of the New Hampshire National Guard’s computer- network defense team said as part of his presentation.<br /> <br /> During the two days of classes in early December, Westerberg and his three colleagues shared their areas of expertise with the El Salvadorans.<br /> <br /> The seemingly routine event was bigger than it looked.<br /> <br /> The topic may have been safeguarding computers, but the goal was expanding and strengthening an international relationship that has been growing since 2000 when the Granite State and the Central American nation created an alliance through the Guard’s State Partnership Program.<br /> <br /> The soldiers were acting as ambassadors in that endeavor, charged as much with forging relationships as with frustrating hackers.<br /> <br /> Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ralph Wegner said, “They gave us a long list of more classes that they’d like to see, which is great.” <br /> <br /> The program began in 1993 in the wake of the demise the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, growing out of a U.S. European Command Joint Contact Program. The first countries to join were the Baltic states—Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, teamed with, respectively, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland.<br /> <br /> “I remember getting the phone call from the Guard Bureau,” says retired Brig. Gen. Robert Taylor, a former NGAUS chairman who was then a colonel and chief of staff for the Michigan Guard.<br /> <br /> He learned that Michigan was home to America’s largest population of Latvian-Americans.<br /> <br /> Michigan Guardsmen were soon in northeast Europe, helping to establish a noncommissioned officer corps and personnel system, among other changes, for the Soviet-style Latvian military.<br /> <br /> “In the early days,” Taylor recalls, “the Russian military was also in-country.”<br /> <br /> The Latvians, he says, were reassured by the presence of American military uniforms on their streets and in their official buildings despite the fact that they had trained for years to go to war against each other.<br /> <br /> “We joked about that many times,” Taylor says.<br /> <br /> SPP now includes 65 nations worldwide, including eight in Africa, one in the Middle East and, most recently, Vietnam, which was begun by an adjutant general who fought there 44 years ago (sidebar, page 31).<br /> <br /> It is a Guard program funded by $14 million from the National Guard Bureau, but the geographic combatant commands, such as U.S. European Command, are the movers and shakers behind many of the overseas events, enthusiastically funding most of them in the cause of security cooperation.<br /> <br /> “The State Partnership Program is, dollar for dollar, my best EUCOM investment,” Adm. James Stavridis, the EUCOM commander, has said.<br /> <br /> It’s also a perfect fit for the Pentagon’s 21st century global strategic guidance to form partnerships and avert conflict, says Maj. Clay Jackson, the SPP coordinator for North Carolina, which has partnerships with Moldova and Botswana.<br /> <br /> Bilateral exchanges through SPP address officer and NCO development, border and port defense, medical evacuation, aviation logistics and safety, disaster preparedness and more.<br /> <br /> But this isn’t a case of big brother pulling along little brother. Partners are respected for what they can do.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the Colorado adjutant general, whose state has two partnerships, says, “We have never approached Slovenia or Jordan from a standpoint of arrogance.” <br /> <br /> Colorado, he says, doesn’t pretend to know what’s best for the two countries.“They’re already pretty damn good,” Edwards says.<br /> <br /> Maj. Douglas Coop, the SPP coordinator for Illinois, which has a strong partnership with Poland, a NATO member, says, “It’s definitely a twoway street, especially with Poland.They’re our peer.” <br /> <br /> He said an exercise responding to chemical contamination proved that.“They could decontaminate more casualties with fewer people than we could,” he says.<br /> <br /> WHILE THE NEW Hampshire soldiers were in El Salvador, Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim, the commander of U.S. Army South, part of U.S. Southern Command, stopped by on a scheduled visit. During a backyard party in his honor, he talked to National Guard about SPP.<br /> <br /> “The value is almost incalculable,” he said. “What you have here is not episodic, but long term.” <br /> <br /> He said 22 nations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, his area of responsibility, are part of the program and will be visited time and again by the same Guard officers and enlisted personnel.<br /> <br /> “It’s great when things are going fine,” he said. “But where the partnership really shows its value is when times are not so good.” <br /> <br /> When a disaster strikes, either manmade or natural, he said, the people who come to help will have already built relationships.<br /> <br /> That seems to be the key to the program and why it is such a perfect fit with the Guard.<br /> <br /> Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tom Dunn, a New Hampshire soldier, hit the nail squarely on the head when he said, “I think we’re making friends, no doubt about it.” <br /> <br /> Guardsmen who have participated in SPP love to recount the friendships they have developed while sharing everything from medical evacuation techniques to infantry skills.<br /> <br /> “I’ve been to two weddings,” says Maj.Nicole David, Colorado’s SPP coordinaTor, referring to ceremonies in Jordan.<br /> <br /> Lt. Gen. Mike Dubie, now the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, was given two Sarplaninac dogs during visits to Macedonia while he was Vermont adjutant general. The dogs were gifts from his friend Lt. Gen. Miroslav Stojanovski, the chief of staff of the Macedonian army.<br /> <br /> When he later visited Macedonia, the country’s president asked, “How are the dogs doing?” <br /> <br /> Edwards, the Colorado adjutant general, still shakes his head over his “very, very close relationship” with Jordan’s Prince Faisal.<br /> <br /> “If you can call royalty friends, we are friends,” he says.<br /> <br /> Taylor retired in 2006, but he welcomed Maj. Gen. Raimonds Graube, the Latvian commander of armed forces, and his wife into his home for one week last June, evidence of the strong bond between the two military professionals.<br /> <br /> “The State Partnership Program at the end of 20 years is a … robust proof of concept,” says Thomas Niblock, the State Department’s foreign policy advisor to the NGB chief, and an unabashed fan of SPP.<br /> <br /> NIBLOCK SAYS THESE friendships count in the big global scheme of things.<br /> <br /> “What matters in our relationships around the world is not what we tell people about who we are,” he says, “but what they believe we are.” <br /> <br /> They learn that, he says, only after getting to know a person, whether that is the secretary of state, the ambassador or the specialist sharing a dusty landing zone during a search and rescue exercise.<br /> <br /> And because Guardsmen don’t move to a new base every two or three years, they keep coming back, time and again.<br /> <br /> “You’ve talked about dogs and wives and fishing and the challenge of raising teenagers,” Niblock says.<br /> <br /> In short, people have gotten to know each other on a personal level.<br /> <br /> “With SPP and the Guard,” Coop says, “there’s never a start over.” <br /> <br /> Friendships are nice, but how does becoming buddy-buddy with a foreign military member benefit America and enhance global security?<br /> <br /> “The one word is trust,” Taylor says. “They truly trust us.” <br /> <br /> And that trust translates into more than just an exchange of holiday cards. Twenty-seven nations in SPP have deployed troops to Afghanistan or Iraq where they have often served alongside Guardsmen from their partner state or territory.<br /> <br /> Dubie recalls talking about the idea in 2009 before it became a reality in 2010 when Vermont Guardsmen and Macedonian troops shared the fear and discomforts of war in Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> “The best thing for our relationship was to take it to the next level,” he says. “That next level was to go to combat together.” <br /> <br /> For nine months, soldiers from the two countries lived together, ate together and worked each day together.“They were embedded within two of our battalions,” Dubie says. “People said it would never happen.” <br /> <br /> Such side-by-side combat adventures have become routine. The strong partnership between Illinois and Poland has resulted in co-deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bosnian military police have embedded with Mps from Maryland in Afghanistan. Slovakians have fought alongside Hoosiers.<br /> <br /> Mongolia would only agree to join the coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan if it could deploy troops with its partners from Alaska, which it has done at least nine times since 2003.<br /> <br /> “And on and on and on,” Niblock says. “Those are billets the U.S. doesn’t have to deploy.” <br /> <br /> Edwards says Jordan deployed fighter jets across its national border for the first time during the Libyan crisis of 2011 to help support a no-fly zone, evidence of the trust built through SPP.<br /> <br /> And although the program was never intended for this, it has become a conduit for relationships and exchanges outside the military, from education to medicine to business and more.<br /> <br /> “We’re the ones who can reach out into the community and find those folks who have similar interests,” says Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel, the New Hampshire adjutant general.<br /> <br /> He tells of a partnership that has grown between Bow High School in his state and San Jose Villanueva School in El Salvador. New Hampshire’s emergency management and fish and game agencies have developed ties with their El Salvadoran counterparts.<br /> <br /> NGB doesn’t formally facilitate such civilian liaisons because it doesn’t have the funding for them. But they do happen with Guard help.<br /> <br /> “An introduction. A handshake. An email. Those don’t cost any money,” says Michael Lashinsky, an international strategy analyst with NGB’s Office of International Affairs.<br /> <br /> Jackson, the SPP coordinator for North Carolina, says business people from Botswana visited the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina in January hoping to recreate it in their country.They were accompanied by people from the secretary of state’s office.<br /> <br /> “These were civilians,” he says. “I acted a little bit like a tour guide.” <br /> <br /> Plans are in place for nurses from North Carolina to visit nursing students in Moldova in a privately funded exchange.<br /> <br /> A North Carolina and Moldova Partnership Committee formed in 1999.<br /> <br /> Jackson says, “It started because of SPP, but it has grown to become a true state-to-nation partnership. . . .We’ve got Rotary Clubs that are doing exchanges and all sorts of stuff like that.” <br /> <br /> NOT TO BE overlooked in this is simply the insight gained by Guardsmen, enlisted and officers, who experience a new culture when they go abroad to work with friends as opposed to going to nations to fight a war.<br /> <br /> “It really broadens their horizons and exposes them to something they’d never have the opportunity for otherwise,” says Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, the Washington adjutant general.<br /> <br /> He uses the state’s partnership with Thailand as a retention tool.<br /> <br /> Ultimately, measuring the success of the State Partnership Program may be difficult. Guardsmen can make friends and broaden their horizons, but determining if those things make the world a safer place is perhaps impossible.<br /> <br /> Daugherty says, however, “We’re planting seeds of democracy across the globe. At some point, those seeds will bear fruit. It might take awhile.” <br /> <br /> But the bottom line here may be that friendships deter wars.<br /> <br /> Once you’ve dined on the local food, sipped the local spirits and learned the names and ages of your counterpart’s children, while perhaps attending a wedding or anniversary party along the way, the likelihood of taking up arms against each other is decidedly lessened.<br /> <br /> “It’s a lot harder to go to war with people you know and like and have a good relationship with,” Daugherty says, “even if you can’t pronounce [their names].” <br /> <br /> The end product of the State Partnership Program, then, from Albania to Vietnam, may be peace.<br /> <br /> Peace among nations, peace among friends.<br /> <br /> Says Edwards, the Colorado adjutant geneal, “That’s how I see it.” <br /> <br /> Ron Jensen can be contacted at 202-408- 5885 or at ron.jensen@ngaus.org.

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