News: Operation Northern Strike showcases the state partnership
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Boyd
GRAYLING, Mich. – The State Partnership Program (SPP) has been successfully building relationships between 74 nations for over 20 years. During Operation Northern Strike at Camp Grayling, the partnerships continued to grow as service members from Latvia, Lithuania, Canada and the U.S. got together to show the world that together they can be a formidable team.
The SPP links a component of a state's National Guard with the armed forces or equivalent of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
The National Guard conducts training such as Operation Northern Strike in support of defense security goals, but also uses the relationships and capabilities to promote interagency and engagements that span military, government, economic and social spheres.
Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) from Latvia, Illinois, North Carolina and other units that are a part of the state partnership program worked together to direct air strikes to simulate suppressing the enemy with pinpoint accuracy during Operation Northern Strike at Grayling Air Gunnery Range in August 2014.
“This training is important, it gives us the opportunity to work with other nations, and learn new skill sets and also pass on some of our knowledge to the soldiers from other countries. We get to train in real world situations with our counterparts from other nations,” said Sgt. Janis Savickis, JTAC, Latvian Ground Forces.
The SPP evolved from a 1991 U.S. European Command decision to set up the Joint Contact Team Program in the Baltic Region with Reserve component Soldiers and Airmen. A subsequent National Guard Bureau proposal paired U.S. states with three nations from the former Soviet Union and the SPP was created, and became a key U.S. security tool that facilitates cooperation across international civil-military affairs and encouraging people-to-people ties at the state level.
This program has subsequently evolved to assist with nations in Africa Such as Liberia which now also has a state partnership with Michigan. The Liberian-Michigan partnership is in its fourth year. Michigan was one of the first three states chosen to enter into the State Partnership Program when partnered with Latvia in 1993.
According to the National Guard Bureau's SPP website, the State Partnership Program "Is becoming a key U.S. security cooperation tool, facilitating cooperation across all aspects of international civil-military affairs and encouraging people-to-people ties at the state level."
(For more information, contact Staff Sgt. Jason Boyd at 810-429-5616)