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NEWS | May 23, 2022

New York Guard Partner South Africa Signs West Point Pact

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard

WEST POINT, N.Y. – New York National Guard leaders attended the signing of an agreement launching a cadet and faculty exchange program between the U.S. Military Academy and South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, which trains that nation’s military officers.

Maj. Gen. Michel Natali, the assistant adjutant general, Army, attended the April 20 event as a representative of the New York Guard’s training partnership with the South African National Defence Force.

Under the agreement, faculty and cadets from West Point will visit the South African Military Academy, which is run for the South African National Defence Force by Stellenbosch University.

Eventually, South African cadets will study at the U.S. Military Academy, with American cadets studying in South Africa.

New York Army Guard Lt. Col. Al Phillips managed the administrative process of putting the agreement in place in 2020 when he was a major serving as the deputy chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria.

Phillips was also responsible for organizing exchanges between the South African military and the New York National Guard under the Department of Defense National Guard State Partnership Program. New York and South Africa have been SPP partners since 2003.

Phillips, who now commands the 10th Main Command Post-Operational Detachment, was also part of the New York National Guard delegation at the signing ceremony.

“I am always proud as a New York National Guardsman when we invest time, resources and energy into something that produces dividends, and this agreement today will produce significant dividends for all parties involved,” Phillips said.

This kind of partnership could expand to include New York’s 106th Regional Training Institute, which trains National Guard Soldiers, and South African military schools, Phillips said.

The 106th is at the New York National Guard’s Camp Smith Training Site, near West Point on the eastern side of the Hudson River.

Training institute leaders have been talking with South African military leaders about offering courses from its catalog, such as NCO Development, Combatives, Master Fitness Training and Officer Candidate courses.

New York has conducted regular exchanges with South Africa, sending Air Guard firefighters to train with their South African counterparts and participating in conferences with military chaplains and senior leaders.

On April 21, New York National Guard leaders also coordinated a visit to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point in New York City for the 10-member South African delegation of military and academic officials.

The South African delegation also received a helicopter tour over Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, flying from Kings Point to the New York National Guard’s historic Harlem Armory.

The art deco landmark was built between 1921 and 1933 to house the 369th Infantry Regiment, which became famous during World War I as the Harlem Hellfighters.

The Hellfighters, who got their name from their German adversaries, spent more time in combat than any other U.S. regiment in World War I and fought with the French Army.