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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | March 14, 2024

Georgian Defense Force Joins Georgia Best Warrior Competition

By Staff Sgt. Tori Miller, 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

RINGGOLD, Ga. - The annual Georgia Army National Guard State Best Warrior Competition offered a twist this year, with Georgian Defense Force soldiers competing against Georgia Army National Guardsmen March 10-15.

Georgia Army National Guard senior enlisted leaders decided to open the competition to their longstanding partners in the State Partnership Program. The Guard hosted the competition at Clay National Guard Center in Marietta and Catoosa Volunteer Training Site in Ringgold. 

Two Georgia Defense Force soldiers participated: Corporal-Specialist Irakli Nozadze, a cannon crewmember representing the Vaziani-based 5th Artillery Brigade, and Junior Sergeant Paata Sabiashvili, an infantryman representing the Tblisi-based 1st Infantry Brigade.

"This is a very good opportunity for us soldiers on all levels to establish communication and relations with each other and learn from each other through a shared experience," Nozadze said.

Command Sgt. Maj. John Ballenger, senior enlisted leader of the Georgia Army National Guard, proposed the idea of Georgian soldiers joining the competition.

"Georgia is different from other states as we have a very special relationship within our State Partnership Program and the Georgian Defense Force Senior NCO Corps," said Ballenger. "It was an easy decision to allow the Georgians to participate."

The state of Georgia has collaborated with Georgian forces through the SPP for nearly 30 years, since Oct. 3, 1994.

The SPP pairs a state's National Guard with its partner nation's military, focusing on security cooperation. The program originated in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gen. Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the Joint Contact Team Program in 1992 to promote enduring, mutually beneficial security relationships with newly independent Eastern Bloc states. Gen. John B. Conway, then chief of the National Guard Bureau, offered the National Guard's services to fulfill the program.

The program supports the geographic combatant commanders in EUCOM and SOUTHCOM and improves the force. Through SPP engagements, the Georgia Guard shares experiences and perspectives with partners who have faced different challenges, increasing their knowledge about the world and national security priorities. 

"The greatest benefit to having Georgian soldiers competing with Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers is the relationship building that takes place," said Maj. Paul Leachman, the Georgia National Guard State Partnership Program director. "There are members of the Georgia National Guard who have developed not only professional relationships but friendships lasting over two decades. Those relationships have played a substantial role in the continued partnership between the United States and the country of Georgia."