U.S. Africa Command hosted The 2019 Adjutant General State Partnership Program Conference here April 15-16.
Officials from all partnering states and the District of Columbia gathered to discuss increasing coordination and communication while also increasing their ability to achieve AFRICOM campaign goals.
“It’s important that we bring you here and you understand where we’re trying to go and how you all fit into that,” said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command. “We want your activities to be complimentary [to ours]. You have the ability with your relationships and roles to foster long-term engagements.”
The SPP links National Guard units with partnering nations to develop mutually beneficial long-term relations that enhance global security, understanding and cooperation.
Developing those relationships is the key to the program growing and prospering in the future, Waldhauser added.
“When your men and women stand side-by-side with Africans during training, you can just tell, your people are committed,” he said. “That is why the countries want U.S. trainers. They want those individuals there because they see the quality, they see the commitment and they see the sincerity these individuals put into the training.”
During the conference, more than 50 attendees learned about key topics and areas of concern, while reviewing initiatives and discussing their programs with AFRICOM staff and other National Guard units. This allowed each to see what’s been working, what challenges each face, and the steps they are taking with their partnering nations.
“As important as it is for us to figure out what the future operations are [in our partnering nations], it’s as important for other [adjutants general] and AFRICOM to understand what we’re doing,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Quick, Vermont National Guard. “It’s also good to have communication amongst [ourselves] so we build some interstate relationships.”
Since its inception, the program has been a security tool that facilitates cooperation across aspects of civilian-military affairs and encourages people-to-people ties at the state level. This allows for high-impact security cooperation engagements that foster long-term enduring relationships with U.S. friends and allies around the world.
“[This program has been] outstanding,” Quick added. “In the National Guard, we’re community members in our own state. So, we know to deal with different personalities and how to build relationships that are long lasting.”
Building that trust and rapport is something the Vermont National Guard has been doing with its partner nation, Senegal, for the last 11 years. In 2018, Senegal sent their first member to the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. After graduation that member was able to spend time in Vermont learning about the culture and seeing local sites.
“I talk to that individual every two to three weeks;” Quick explained. “Just to keep that relationship strong and see how they’re doing.”
There are currently 14 state partnerships between the United States and African nations: California is partnered with Nigeria; New York with South Africa; North Carolina with Botswana; the North Dakota Guard is partnered with three countries, Ghana, Togo and Benin; Michigan with Liberia; Utah with Morocco; Vermont with Senegal; Wyoming with Tunisia; Kentucky with Djibouti; Massachusetts with Kenya; Indiana with Niger and the District of Columbia with Burkina Faso.