News: Wyoguard leadership shares knowledge in Tunisia
Story by 1st Lt. Christian Venhuizen
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Brig. Gen. Steve Mount recently stood before an audience of military and civilian personnel who were still rebuilding their nation.
His assignment was to speak at the Tunisia’s National Defense Institute. One of a series of speeches and discussions made by Wyoming National Guard general officers and one of the first since that nation underwent a regime change.
“Tunisia has done a great job of defining the role of their military in their transition to a democracy,” Mount said. “If you look at how they performed, how the military has performed during and after the revolution, I think the world can take note and take a lot of lessons learned and apply it.”
The speaking engagement and relationship between Tunisia and Wyoming are a part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. The 20-year-old program pairs states, territories and the District of Columbia with nations, said Capt. Eric McCoy, the State Partnership Program coordinator in Wyoming. The partnerships become a tool to further security cooperation, and build relationships, both civilian and military.
The intent behind the exchanges and discussions about military roles in the nation is a part of the broader picture, said McCoy.
Mount, the director of the Wyoming National Guard’s Joint Staff, visited Tunisia twice since the start of 2012. Mount was one of the officers responsible for the development of the Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center during the initial years of the Global War on Terror.
In his current position, Mount oversees the stateside missions, not involved in a named conflict. That includes response and assistance to civilian authorities and dealing with large scale disasters at home – topics in which McCoy said the Tunisians are very interested.
“The State Partnership Program is all about the relationships, and although I’m a new face, many of them I have seen or have met because they came to the U.S. and while I was at (Camp Guernsey) I gave them tours and such,” Mount said.
The roles were reversed for Mount in Tunisia. A former artillery officer, Mount toured the Tunisian artillery school house which he said allowed him to build new relationships from his own experiences. That included inspections of their forces and discussions of future cultural exchanges.
“I see, with Brig. Gen. Mount, he’s going to be building relationships where we will be able to get more in-depth and more exchanges,” McCoy said.
“What I told (the Tunisians) is the military should be subordinate to civil authorities,” Mount said, of his time at the National Defense Institute, “and that the military needs to be very professional and to understand their role in the government, they need to be educated on the system, the system of government they support.”
Mount said he was asked what specific avenues he thought the Tunisian military should take as the new government unfolds. He said answering those questions were difficult, specifically trying to avoid too much interference, while providing what he believes is the best guidance for success.
“The military really has to be apolitical,” Mount said he told the discussion group. “They are there to support the people of that nation.”
The focus on people is what the general would like to see in the future, specifically an emphasis on the development of more civilian exchanges between Tunisia and Wyoming.
“We stopped at (U.S. Africa Command) and we talked about the (Wyoming) Office of Homeland Security and other agencies within the state of Wyoming, trying to figure out how we can further that exchange,” he said.
Additionally, Mount said he wants to increase exchanges between more junior members of the Wyoming National Guard and Tunisian military.
“First off, someday they are probably going to be senior leaders and they are going to need to know who they are dealing with,” he said. “It teaches our officers there are other ways to do things.”
The general said despite the current hardships caused by this revolution, it would benefit Wyoming’s junior officers and enlisted soldiers and airmen to see and learn from a culture which has survived since Roman times and continues to adapt