RALEIGH, N.C. - Three members of North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing Security Forces travelled to Botswana, Africa, in late June, to work side-by-side with their Botswana Defense Air Force counterparts in support of the National Guard's State Partnership Program, established by the Department of Defense, and sponsored by U.S. Africa Command.
The Botswana Defense Force (BDF) and the North Carolina National Guard have been state partners for 10 years conducting over 70 Army and Air Force engagements in Botswana and in North Carolina.
"It was great working with the BDF Air Force," said 145th Airlift Wing's Staff Sgt. Eric Stitt, a five-year veteran of the Wing's Security Force. "They were eager to work and learn best practices from our team and we learned a few things ourselves."
North Carolina's Air National Guard's Security Forces are charged with protecting and defending the 145th Airlift Wing's air base, at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. They also have similar capabilities as Army Military Police and frequently interact and collaborate with local, state and federal law enforcement.
This latest mission to Botswana is part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program or "SPP." SPP is in its 25th year of existence and the program has conducted thousands of National Guard and partner state engagements across the globe. The program now has 74 partnerships with countries throughout the world.
The NC Guard has two state partnerships; Botswana and Moldova. Moldova is a small eastern European country between Ukraine and Romania and has been partners with the N.C. National Guard for 22 years.
"I have one overseas deployment to the U.A.E. in 2015, and this is my first SPP mission," said Stitt. "While in Botswana we'd have morning classroom sessions and then move to the airfield to execute what was discussed in class. It was a great experience."
This particular SPP engagement is a starting point to build on in anticipation for a larger U.S. AFRICOM sponsored multi-state exercise in 2019 called Upward Minuteman 2019.
"NCNG Botswana SPP engagements will only increase over the next 24 months," said Sgt. 1st Class James Andrews, NC National Guard's SPP coordinator. "The level of professionalism and pride in their [BDF] defense mission is clearly visible. Our strong relationship and ability to learn from each other's forces is what makes this program successful."