NIAMEY, Niger - The Indiana National Guard and the Republic of Niger began a new partnership Jan. 26 as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
Maj. Gen. Courtney P. Carr, the Adjutant General of Indiana, and Gen. Seyni Garba, Joint Chief of Staff of the Niger Armed Forces, signed a ceremonial partnership agreement during a ceremony in Niamey, Niger.
"This partnership is timely because it offers a great opportunity for the Niger armed forces to further develop its capabilities to face all the major security challenges of the day," Garba said.
The State Partnership Program is a long-term security cooperation program that pairs National Guard States with partner nations in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.
“For the Forces Armée Nigerien, it will build and strengthen its already impressive military training institutions and security operations,” said Amb. Eunice S. Reddick, U.S. Ambassador to Niger. “For the Indiana National Guard, the partnership offers a chance to increase readiness, interoperability, and regional expertise.”
While the National Guard Bureau oversees the State Partnership Program, it is not limited to military to military engagements, but can also include military to civil, and civil to civil interactions, said Lt. Col. Chris Kimball, U.S. Africa Command State Partnership Program coordinator.
“The National Guard State Partnership Program is an innovative means to bring together a state’s National Guard with that of a partner country,” Carr said. “It enables Indiana National Guard to leverage whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency engagements spanning the military, economic, education and socio-cultural realms.”
The Indiana National Guard has a history of partnering with academic institutions such as Indiana University - who is interested in playing a vital role in the partnership with Niger, he said.
The State Partnership program began in 1993 and currently there are 73 unique partnerships across the world. With the addition of Indiana and Niger, there are now 13 African nations partnered with 10 State National Guards. Other partnerships include Botswana and North Carolina; Djibouti and Kentucky; Ghana, Togo, Benin and North Dakota; Kenya and Massachusetts; Liberia and Michigan; Morocco and Utah; Nigeria and California; Senegal and Vermont; South Africa and New York; Tunisia and Wyoming.
“Since the first partnership in Africa began in 2003 between South Africa and New York, the State Partnership Program has been a vital contributor to the AFRICOM mission,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy McAteer, AFRICOM deputy director for strategy, plans, and programs. “The long-term relationships built between Guard members and their African counterparts have a positive impact on security, stability, and the future of the partnered African nations.”
Typical engagements between National Guard units and African militaries include leadership, officer and NCO development training and opportunities, cooperative training and exercises, senior leader visits, exchange programs and deployment planning.
Since many African militaries are smaller than the U.S. military, the State Partnership Program matches military organizations of comparable size, focus and mission, Kimball said.
“National Guard units offer the full spectrum of military capabilities, plus others not found in active components, such as disaster response, border, port and aviation security, and counternarcotic trafficking,” he said. “These are all unique challenges that African militaries may face.”
In fiscal year 2016, the National Guard conducted more than 110 State Partnership Program events in support of AFRICOM’s security cooperation objectives. These events involved approximately 700 U.S. and approximately 1,900 partner nation personnel, said Col. Dan Bilko, Chief, AFRICOM National Guard Integration Office.
Looking forward, Bilko hopes more partnerships in Africa will be formed as part of the program.
“The State Partnership Program constitutes AFRICOM’s best opportunity for broad, deep, stable and lasting relationships with nations on the continent,” he said. “Maintaining existing partnerships and forging new ones represent modest, and prudent, investments for Africa’s long-term security and stability.”