FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – About 20 foreign military officers who serve as defense attachés for their countries toured Fort Indiantown Gap Nov. 16.
The group received an overview of the Pennsylvania National Guard, emphasizing its partnership with Lithuania as part of the State Partnership Program, and the Guard’s role in serving the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation.
The visit was part of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Operations Orientation Program, highlighting opportunities to foster partnerships and cooperation. In addition to the Fort Indiantown Gap visit, the group toured Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; the Boeing Factory in Philadelphia; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia.
“The U.S. military relies on strong partnerships with nations throughout the world to guarantee our safety here at home and that of our allies,” said Maj. Gen. Mark J. Schindler, adjutant general of Pennsylvania. “The process of building those partnerships begins here with you.
“The State Partnership Program is but one example of the versatile role the National Guard plays in the United States military,” Schindler added. “We in the National Guard have a dual mission: domestically, to respond to natural disasters and civil unrest, and overseas, to fight our nation’s wars.”
During the visit, the group toured the Training Support Center and the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site’s Aviation Maintenance Instructional Building.
“I am deeply impressed by the [training] facilities here,” Col. Heinz Peter Kinzer, an attaché from Austria, said of his impressions at the Training Support Center. “It is very professional. We have similar simulators, but we are more limited. It is really a huge and impressive facility.”
Many of the visiting attachés found the duality of the National Guard’s mission particularly interesting, prompting questions on how it functions, how the chain of command works, and how missions are funded.
“We have several advantages over the active component, as we have demonstrated over the last 20 years during the global war on terror,” Schindler said. “In addition to being more cost-effective than full-time Soldiers and Airmen, we in the reserve component bring a diverse set of skills from full-time careers in the civilian world that act as force multipliers in combat.”
The military response to homeland emergencies is not unique to America. However, few nations have a well-developed response effort like the National Guard.
For instance, the United Kingdom often employs military aid to civilian powers in response to homeland crises, said Air Vice-Marshal Mick Smeath, an attaché from the United Kingdom. However, that response is pulled from active-duty units, taking them away from their military roles.
“Fort Indiantown Gap offers amazing capability,” Smeath said. “It really is the jewel in the crown for the Pennsylvania National Guard. I’m impressed with the sheer scale of capability here. There’s nothing quite like this in the U.K.”