OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — The country of Burkina Faso has become the 76th nation to join the Defense Department's State Partnership Program, following a formal signing ceremony with the District of Columbia National Guard and the National Armed Forces of Burkina Faso at the Ministry of Defense here, Feb. 1.
"Burkina Faso continues to be a U.S. strategic ally and an active partner in the fight against violent extremist organizations," said Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general, D.C. National Guard. "We are eager to develop our partnership with Burkina Faso through targeted security force assistance programs aimed at building Burkina Faso's capacity in specific areas such as counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, intelligence, and defense institutions building.
A number of dignitaries witnessed the historic signing, including Burkina Faso's Secretary General of the Minister of Defense Justin Som, U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Andrew Young, Brig. Gen. Moses Miningou, the chief of general staff for the National Armed Forces of Burkina Faso, and U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven deMilliano, deputy director for strategy, engagement and programs directorate at United States Africa Command.
"The D.C. National Guard has demonstrated the capability and capacity to support this new partnership and contribute to its long-term success in Western Africa," deMilliano said.
The State Partnership Program was established in 1991 to provide an equally beneficial relationship between armed forces of partnering U.S. National Guard states and foreign nations. It is administered by the National Guard Bureau, guided by State Department foreign policy goals, and executed by each state's National Guard. These partnerships support Combatant Command campaign objectives, strengthen alliances, provide cost-effective training and enhance defense security.
The D.C. National Guard's partnership with Burkina Faso will be in addition to the current partnership the district has developed with Jamaica. Since 1999, the D.C. National Guard has held a successful and productive partnership with Jamaica. In 2018, the D.C. National Guard and the Jamaica Defense Forces conducted 17 key subject matter expert engagements, including work on counter-narcotic and drug-trafficking; military police response and domestic security training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response, and training for medical and dental personnel, among other activities.
Similar engagements will be conducted with the National Armed Forces of Burkina Faso to include mission areas related to homeland defense and security, disaster mitigation and response, consequence and crisis management, inter-agency cooperation, border, port and aviation security, fellowship-style internships, and combat medical events.
"This partnership will benefit both sides strategically, tactically and operationally," said Army Maj. Ricardo Masgonzalez, State Partnership Program coordinator, D.C. National Guard. "For us, this partnership enhances our readiness, inter-operability and regional expertise, while supporting the broader U.S. government objectives in Africa."
Burkina Faso gained its independence from France in 1960. Its official language is French with French native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90-percent of the population. The country is slightly larger than the state of Colorado and the key exports are cotton and gold.
A contingent of D.C. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will kick off the partnership with Burkina Faso in late-February at the Flintlock annual regional exercise among African, allied and U.S. counter-terrorism forces, as observers, in preparation for their full-participation in 2020.