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    SOUTHCOM, National Guard review state partnerships in the Western Hemisphere


    Photo By Raymond Sarracino | U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, military deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command,...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Southern Command

    By Jose Ruiz, U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs

    MIAMI - U.S. military leaders, planners and coordinators from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the National Guard Bureau and 18 states’ National Guard met at SOUTHCOM headquarters in Miami from April 29-May 1 to review how the Defense Department’s State Partnership Program (SPP) supports the combatant command and its defense ties in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

    The 2014 Western Hemisphere State Partnership Program Adjutant Generals’ Conference marks the first time the group has gathered since 2011 to discuss the combatant command mission and priority areas supported by the program.

    “Your contribution across this region matters, and we thank you for it,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, military deputy commander for SOUTHCOM, as he addressed participants prior to the start of the conference. “It’s critical that everything we do is focused and is synchronized.”

    The State Partnership Program was established in 1993 to link states’ National Guard with armed forces around the world, expanding U.S. defense cooperation and strengthening military relationships.

    National Guard-supported state partnerships in the Western Hemisphere date back to 1996. Today, 18 U.S. states have active partnerships with defense and security forces from 27 nations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

    Activities conducted under the program range from exercises and subject matter expert exchanges to workshops and familiarization visits, and focus on topics of mutual interest, such as security, aviation, logistics, engineering, communications, medical care, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, operational planning and professional development.

    “Obviously, the State Partnership Program is a critical enabler for us,” Tovo told National Guard leaders and troops attending the conference. “Your soldiers and airmen are doing everything from helping us with disaster preparedness, honing critical skills downrange, and demonstrating U.S. partnership and commitment; and that can’t really be overstated.”

    During the conference Gen. John Kelly, SOUTHCOM commander, also met with adjutant generals for states partnered with Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize in Central America’s northern tier, a region experiencing increased violence associated with transnational organized crime. They discussed ways those state partnerships can support the command’s ongoing security assistance to those nations.

    “We’re trying to see what more we can do,” Tovo said, referring to U.S. military assistance efforts in the region. “We have the ability to help in a variety of ways, and we are working to do that right now.”

    On the final day of the conference, state adjutant generals briefed their respective partnership programs. They were joined during their presentations by Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

    Tovo commended the National Guard for its contributions to SOUTHCOM under the partnership program, underscoring its increased importance after fiscal constraints resulting from sequestration during fiscal year 2013 led to the cancellation of previously scheduled U.S. military engagements with regional defense and security counterparts.

    “You provide a great service, and we’re looking forward to continued partnership,” Tovo told them. “Many of you have well established partnerships downrange. You conduct visits regularly, and we appreciate you doing that … every engagement downrange matters.”

    According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald McGregor, the National Guard Bureau’s director of strategic policy, plans and international affairs, the state partnership program is one of the Defense Department’s most effective tools for establishing and strengthening long-term military partnerships.

    “What makes us different in this program is that we’re here for decades,” he told participants. “It’s lasting, it’s enduring. Those of you who have been in the security cooperation business for a while - and I’ve been doing this since 1997 - understand that it’s all about relationships.”

    From saving lives, protecting property and mitigating infrastructure damage following disasters or during crises in their states to providing the nation with units trained, equipped and prepared to defend the United States and its interests around the world, McGregor said the National Guard expertise and capabilities can be leveraged by combatant commands working with international partners.

    “I know that SOUTHCOM absolutely gets that and leverages it to the nth degree, which we’re very, very proud of,” he told attendees.

    USSOUTHCOM and the National Guard Bureau last co-hosted the biennial conference in 2011. This year’s conference was originally scheduled for 2013, but was canceled following budgetary cutbacks due to sequestration.



    Date Taken: 05.01.2014
    Date Posted: 05.01.2014 16:03
    Story ID: 128446
    Location: MIAMI, FL, US 

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