PARAMARIBO, Suriname –
About 30 soldiers from the South Dakota National Guard traveled to the South American country of Suriname to provide engineering support for a school renovation and medical and dental services in several community locations, April 18 through May 3.
The renovation project and healthcare mission were conducted as a part of the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program and provided training for military personnel while assisting the community by improving the school’s infrastructure and improving systemic and oral health for Suriname residents.
The State Partnership Program seeks to strengthen ties through engagement activities, sharing experiences and best practices through various military training exchanges. The National Guard Bureau provided funding for the project, and all materials and supplies were purchased in Suriname through U.S. Southern Command’s Humanitarian Civil Assistance program.
“The partnership between Suriname Defense Force and the SDNG continues to grow strong and is seen in the collaboration for this event,” said Maj. Melody Howell, bilateral affairs officer - Security Cooperation Office in Suriname. “Continued support from NGB, SOUTHCOM, and the U.S. Embassy helps make events like this possible.”
A dozen soldiers from the 842nd Engineer Company worked alongside about a dozen Suriname Defense Force engineers on renovations for the Magenta Polder (Elementary) School. Renovations consisted of rebuilding and repairing bathrooms, wall sections, doors, locks and screens, bathroom toilets, faucets, and ceiling tiles, and removing all lights and replacing them with LED fixtures.
Material funding for the project was $15,000, including an additional $30,000 in humanitarian aid donations of materials to continue renovations by the Suriname Ministry of Education.
Eighteen soldiers from the SDNG’s 730th Area Support Medical Company, Medical Command and 114th Medical Group worked alongside 10 Suriname Defense Force medics to provide health services to residents in the rural communities of Atjoni, Brownsweg and Brokopondo. The team saw over 2,000 medical and dental patients where they conducted health screenings and small in/outpatient procedures.
Materials and medicine funding for the medical and dental services was $15,000 for each location for a total of $45,000.
“We were very excited to see this project get funded and approved,” said Lt. Col. Stephen E. Sewell III, State Partnership Program coordinator and project officer. “The SDNG has proven once again that, if given resources, we will produce outstanding results.”
South Dakota and Suriname, in coordination with U.S. Southern Command, established a successful security cooperation relationship in 2006 under the 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 State Partnership Program provides unique capacity-building capabilities to combatant commanders through partnerships between U.S. states and foreign countries. The program helps to support U.S. national interests and security cooperation goals by engaging partner nations through military-to-military exchanges.
The partnership has made an impact on both organizations over the past 16 years. Every year, nearly a dozen exchanges take place between SDNG and SDF service members that enhance training, skills, techniques and operational processes and procedures.