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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | April 16, 2024

West Virginia Guard Expands International Partnerships

By Edwin Wriston, West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - West Virginia National Guard leaders traveled to Peru and Qatar to build and expand international partnerships through the State Partnership Program.

The West Virginia National Guard partners with Peru, Qatar and Gabon through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau program.

Peru and West Virginia have partnered through the SPP since 1996. They have held more than 200 high-level and subject matter expert engagements, providing insight into regional challenges facing the Andean Ridge and assisting Peruvian forces in the areas of counterinsurgency, anti-terrorism, emergency preparedness, risk mitigation and disaster response and recovery.

Delegations from Peru often travel to West Virginia to learn about WVNG capabilities, including engineering and aeromedical evacuation, and to participate in training and exercises. Likewise, delegations from West Virginia have gone to Peru to work with counterparts on various capabilities, such as providing advanced instruction on military vehicle maintenance, conducting advanced search and rescue courses, and sharing best cybersecurity practices.

In late March, a WVNG delegation including Maj. Gen. Crane, West Virginia adjutant general, met in Peru with U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John McNamara, Gen. Cesar Briceno, commanding general of the Peruvian Army, Lt. Gen. Ruben Gambarini, chief of staff of the Peruvian Air Force, Maj. Gen. Julio Gutierrez, commander of the 2nd Air Wing, and Gen. Carlos Rabanal, deputy commander for the chief of defense. 

The officials discussed upcoming partnership efforts. Those included humanitarian/disaster relief, cyber, enlisted leader professional development, and West Virginia Air and Army National Guard aviation units supporting a major multilateral disaster response exercise, Resolute Sentinel ’24, in Peru this summer.

“Our incredible relationship with Peru continues to deepen and strengthen,” Crane said.

In 2018, Qatar became a second SPP partner for West Virginia. Engagements with Qatar have centered on emergency response, land forces interoperability, the intelligence enterprise, and professional development, including multilateral security planning and execution for the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosted by Qatar.

During a visit to Qatar in late February, a delegation including Crane met with U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Timmy T. Davis, Maj. Gen. Al-Khayarin, commander of the Qatar Emiri Land Forces, Maj. Gen. Rashid Al Hajri, commander of the Qatar Military Police Forces, Brig. Gen. Jassim Al-Attiyah, commander of the Qatar Joint Special Forces, Maj. Gen. Al-Naimi, president of the Qatar National Service Academy, and Maj. Gen. Al-Shawani, deputy commander of the Qatar Emiri Air Force. 

Topics discussed included increased intelligence cooperation, NATO interoperability with Qatari forces, potential academic partnerships with West Virginia colleges and universities, exercise Desert Leopard involving the WVNG, Qatar and Kuwait, special forces interoperability, joint training, direct support for an all-female Qatari unit, and future training and engagement opportunities in Qatar and West Virginia.

“We have some truly exciting opportunities for our entire One Guard Family coming up with our Qatari partners, and this trip helped to lay the groundwork for those and future engagements,” said Crane. “Qatar is also interested in partnering with us to explore training opportunities with Peru. This is proof positive of the ability for the SPP program to forge new relationships and alliances between our partner nations, benefiting the entire international security environment.”

The trips to Peru and Qatar come after the official State Department announcement that the WVNG has officially paired with a third nation, Gabon. 

“Being chosen to partner with a third SPP nation is a huge honor for the WVNG,” said Lt. Col. Erik Sarson, WVNG SPP director. “The SPP is a unique tool in the U.S. toolkit that enables deep relationships and continuity in an era where allies and partners are more critical to our success worldwide than ever before. We will be able to utilize our experiences working with Peru and Qatar to quickly build important relationships in Gabon that will strengthen U.S. presence and influence on the African continent while providing phenomenal experiential opportunities to Guard members across the state.”

Engagements with Gabon will begin this summer, laying the groundwork for a formal visit and key leader event with the African nation later in the year. The partnership will also focus on noncommissioned officer professional development, basic Soldier skills instruction, aviation maintenance training, disaster preparedness and response and military civil engineering.

The SPP began in 1993 to assist countries emerging from the Iron Curtain. Today, the program involves over 100 countries and the National Guard of every U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia. Most of the earliest SPP partner countries in Europe have become U.S. allies in NATO, and many of them credit the SPP and their National Guard partners for helping make that possible.

“Our SPP partnerships form a core strength of our organization, and our team’s efforts are a testament to our Guard’s influence and ability to contribute to global security,” Crane said. “Every West Virginian can be proud of the work we do both here and abroad supporting defense and security cooperation objectives around the world.”