By Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (2/2/12) – New Hampshire Guard senior leaders recently spent several days here meeting with key military leaders to strengthen the state and nation’s pairing in the National Guard State Partnership Program.
The SPP builds relationships between the National Guard in the states and territories and partnered nations worldwide. New Hampshire’s relationship with El Salvador recently passed the 12-year mark and will continue to grow, state Guard leaders said.
New Hampshire’s adjutant general, Air Force Maj. Gen. William Reddel III, credits the SPP relationship as one of the reasons why El Salvador troops served alongside U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I truly believe that one of the reasons why El Salvador went to Iraq … was because of [the New Hampshire Guard],” said Reddel. “They are the only country in this hemisphere that has done that.”
The adjutant general envisions growth in New Hampshire SPP activities.
“The hope is that we may be able to take on a second country, but have a tri-lateral agreement and that all three countries would be working together to solve problems,” Reddel said. “Other states have done it; New Hampshire can do it.”
Meanwhile, Reddel said New Hampshire and El Salvador’s relationship has matured and deepened.
“When we look at engagements, they were pretty much ‘events’ in the very beginning,” Reddel said. “As we kept on moving forward we turned ‘events’ into ‘outcomes.’ And now, it’s all about outcomes.”
Those outcomes, said Reddel, have included partnered training and a greater understanding of ways the U.S. and El Salvador can work together.
“With SPP you find it’s all about relationships,” he said. “It’s all about the constant relationship that we have with the country and with their members in the military.”
The relationship has grown to encompass more than military-to-military exchanges. New Hampshire students from a local high school partnered with a school in El Salvador and have had exchanges between both teachers and students, said Reddel, who added that interaction came about because of the structure of the Guard.
“Given the fact that we are a community-based force, we can reach out into the community to find those relationships that we can take down to El Salvador,” he said.
“Every year we alternate with the Salvadorans – one year we’ll go down there, the next year they’ll come here,” he said.
During the recent visit, the New Hampshire delegation not only met with military leadership to discuss future endeavors, but they also spent time observing aspects of army basic training and air force pilots and ground crews as they performed their mission, and they received briefings on Salvadoran military response to severe flooding in the country in November.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to expand opportunities to exchange ideas, to exchange education and to exchange things that make both the United States and El Salvador better,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Carolyn Protzmann, assistant adjutant general for Air with the New Hampshire Guard.
One of those areas is international and homeland security.
“Our relationship with El Salvador helps to strengthen the security and security cooperation, and it puts the National Guard in the forefront of the homeland defense and homeland security mission,” said Protzmann. “And that’s where we need to be.”
The ability to do that comes back to relationship building.
“By coming down here and being exposed to this culture, exposed to the challenges that the Salvadoran people are up against, helps us to be better informed on how we should act and react as global citizens,” said Army Brig. Gen. Craig Bennett, assistant adjutant general for Army with the New Hampshire National Guard.
And that means long-term success.
“In the long term, if we need to call on the El Salvadorans for their help in times of need or vice-versa, existing relationships allow us to do that much more effectively,” Bennett said.