CAIRO, Egypt – The Arab Republic of Egypt formally entered the Department of Defense National Guard State Partnership Program at a signing ceremony Monday.
Egypt is paired with the Texas National Guard in the 28-year-old defense cooperation program.
"This is a very proud day for the National Guard," said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, witnessing the signing between Egypt's Assistant Minister of Defense for International Affairs, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Salah, and Army Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, adjutant general, Texas National Guard.
"Egypt has long been a cornerstone of regional stability and a partner in global security," Hokanson said. "Today's signing ceremony exemplifies the depth of our bilateral relationship, rooted in more than 40 years of military cooperation and assistance.
"Through the SPP," he added, "we deepen our commitment to the longstanding and critical cooperation that has served our nations well. The Texas National Guard and the Arab Republic of Egypt are natural partners."
The SPP has grown from its inception with a handful of former Eastern Bloc countries following the collapse of the Soviet Union to 82 partnerships with 89 countries.
"The National Guard is making history – again," said Norris, the Texas adjutant general. "This new partnership is a win for Egypt, Texas and the National Guard."
State Partnership Program engagements are executed through U.S. geographic combatant commanders' theater strategies and are aligned with U.S. Embassy country strategies. The SPP helps the U.S. strengthen strategic partnerships and build partnership capacity, enhance readiness and deepen interoperability.
Texas is an experienced SPP player: The state has been partnered with the Czech Republic for a quarter-century and with Chile for more than a decade.
"Though each culture is different and unique, we've already had experience with what works in the SPP and what doesn't work," Norris said. "Those lessons learned help us build stronger and stronger relationships."
Texas also is experienced with Egypt.
"The Texas Military Department is proud to play a key role in the overall U.S.-Egypt relationship," Norris said. "From the Texas National Guard's continued participation in Exercise Bright Star – a decades-running, multilateral defense exercise – to Texas National Guard units supporting the Multinational Force and Observers mission in Sinai, Texas is a key player in the military partnership between our two countries.
"This formal, long-term partnership will build on past cooperation and further strengthen the military capabilities and readiness of both of our nations."
Officers and enlisted members on both sides of SPP pairings build professional relationships that often span decades as their careers progress. This longevity is unique to the SPP: Other U.S. military assignments typically see rotations every three or four years, limiting the ability to build long-term relationships.
"People from both partners grow up together, professionally," Norris said. "Everything is about relationships and trust, and the SPP builds strong bonds that offer unmatched continuity between partners and between our nations."
Among Egypt's benefits from the new partnership: The Texas Guard's wealth of experience, including border issues, which Egypt also faces. Through Texas, Egypt gains access to capabilities and knowledge from across the entire National Guard. Through the Texas National Guard, the potential exists to build relationships with other state agencies, such as education, law enforcement, and public health.
"This is a program where you really see the strength of the National Guard," Norris said. "We bring our military experience, and we also bring this other whole skillset from the civilian sector. Our Soldiers and Airmen bring their civilian-acquired skills and apply them, where appropriate, to develop solutions in their military roles."
But the partnership benefits both sides, Norris said.
"This broadens every Soldier and Airmen who take part in the program," she said. "It also helps with our recruiting and retention when we're able to offer Soldiers and Airmen these kinds of experiences."
Egypt's Minister of Defense and Military Production Gen. Mohamed Zaki and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen also witnessed Monday's signing. Gen. Hokanson was accompanied by SEA Tony Whitehead, the National Guard's most senior enlisted member, who advises the CNGB on enlisted matters.
The partnership is off to a quick start: Also, this week, Norris meets with military leadership at the Egyptian Training Authority, the Border Guard Forces, the Egyptian Air Marshall headquarters, and the Special Forces Command headquarters.
And Texas Guard members and their Egyptian counterparts are taking part in multi-day events in cavalry scout tactics, marksmanship development, and commanders' resiliency.
The partners also discuss future exchanges and exercises relating to C-130 Hercules aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets and AH-64 Apache helicopter flight maneuver and maintenance. Additionally, U.S. Embassy Cairo officials said, future exchanges are expected to focus on cyber defense, logistics, special forces, homeland security response, military support to civilian authorities, and humanitarian and disaster assistance response.
"Partnerships are living things," Hokanson said. "They must be nurtured, cherished and strengthened for the next generation. They are our best long-term investment in global security."