PARAMARIBO, Suriname - Senior leaders from the South Dakota National Guard visited the Republic of Suriname to reinforce its state partnership with Suriname Defense Force officials Nov. 22-25.
SDNG leaders met with Suriname’s minister of defense, the U.S. ambassador to Suriname, and other SDF leaders to collaborate on ideas for working together and providing training for both organizations.
South Dakota and Suriname, in coordination with U.S. Southern Command, established a successful security cooperation relationship in 2006 under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. Since then, numerous exchanges have taken place between the SDNG and Suriname’s Defense Forces to share experiences and best practices in a variety of military training and topics.
“The South Dakota National Guard has an excellent relationship with Suriname,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Marlette, SDNG adjutant general. “It’s been a good program over the years. We do many engagements each year with them coming to South Dakota and South Dakota going to Suriname.”
The State Partnership Program provides unique capacity-building capabilities to combatant commanders through partnerships between U.S. states and foreign countries. The program helps support U.S. national interests and security cooperation goals by engaging partner nations through military-to-military exchanges.
“The relationship between South Dakota and Suriname is very positive,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Oster, SD Army Guard assistant adjutant general. “It reaches further than people realize. We have been able to meet people and develop relationships not only at the senior leadership level but on multiple levels that will shape how the partnership will develop going forward.”
The partnership has had an impact on both organizations over the past 13 years. Every year, nearly a dozen exchanges take place between SDNG and SDF service members to enhance training, skills, techniques and operational processes and procedures.
“The projects that the South Dakota National Guard have done over the years have always been very well received by the people,” said Marlette. “We have done medical missions, engineering projects and exchanged leadership ideas.
“We have also worked on things that have national impact, such as how to respond in support of civil authorities in the event of a natural disaster or civil disturbance,” Marlette said. “The exchange of ideas has been beneficial to both organizations.”
During the visit, the SDNG attended Suriname’s National Day celebration.
“We always come down for their National Day celebration, which is equivalent to our nation’s Independence Day,” said Marlette. “This shows our recognition and support for them as a partner nation.”
Oster emphasized the benefit the partnership has on providing additional perspective.
“In an area where one of us is a little more experienced or have had a little more exposure, we can share alternate ways of doing business,” he said. “Maybe more than that, you also get different perspectives on what you are already doing well.
“You get a more worldly awareness,” Oster added. “It may seem that South Dakota and Suriname are very far apart, but when you get together, you realize that people are people, and we have more in common than you might think.”
The SDNG and Suriname will continue to explore new opportunities for the future of the partnership.
“There are now new opportunities to work together through our military academies,” Oster said. “We are very much looking forward to collaborating and sharing best practices in this area as we have in so many others over the years.”
“The State Partnership Program is a great tool for U.S. Southern Command to use to help stabilize the region and combat foreign influences that might not share the same values and priorities of the United States,” said Marlette. “The Suriname government likes working with us and we like working with them. This program will continue to be successful for many years into the future.”