MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – A National Guard-administered program that has paired states with foreign nations around the world since 1993 continues to strengthen defense relations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
At the core of the State Partnership Program: Building relationships to complement the command's theater campaign plan and the National Defense Strategy, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Jon Mott, U.S. Central Command's director of exercises and training, speaking at a National Guard birthday celebration here Dec 13.
The Guard's unique capabilities, matched with being "combat-tested, seamless and readiness-focused," set the foundation for enduring relationships with partners around the world, Mott said.
For instance, homeland defense – a mission exclusive to the National Guard – often serves as a relationship bloodline with foreign militaries that are responsible for both emergency response and national security in their own nations, Mott said. Through SPP engagements, Guard units can earn the access and influence that can benefit shared security objectives.
Another unique element of SPP is the predictability of the Guard itself.
"Unlike active component personnel who are reassigned every few years, National Guard personnel typically belong to the same state for their entire career," said U.S. Army Maj. Roger Hoselton, CENTCOM's National Guard Bureau liaison and SPP manager. "The continuity inherent to the National Guard is a significant benefit to building partnerships … as personnel on both sides rise up through the ranks over the years."
SPP currently boasts 79 partnerships, each unique in terms of goals, scope and frequency of exchanges.
Hoselton manages CENTCOM's six partnerships, which range from the Arizona-Kazakhstan bond that was established in 1993 to the West Virginia-Qatar relationship forged earlier this year, he said. Engagements can focus on battle staff operations, aircraft maintenance or even support other forms of security cooperation such as foreign military sales and foreign military financing cases.
One of CENTCOM's strongest partnerships is between Colorado and Jordan, whose aviation units were working together well before their relationship was formalized in 2004, Hoselton said.
Since then, they have conducted more than 280 SPP-sanctioned exchanges in a variety of areas of interest, said Jordan Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Abdallah Hunaiti, director of planning and organization. Today, Colorado and Jordan average 15-20 engagements annually, such as Eager Lion, the command's largest and most complex exercise.
And while the 15-year partners still use interpreters to help bridge the language barrier, the two commands have bonded culturally by building trust and understanding over time, said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Greg White, director of Colorado National Guard's Joint Staff.
"We are extremely pleased with our partnership," White said. "We have become a family whose brothers and sisters have worked side-by-side to learn from each other and improve our skills."