NEWS | Dec. 6, 2011

Missouri Guard, Panama sign historic agreement

By Army National Guard Sgt. Sarah Lupescu Missouri National Guard

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, and Panama's vice-minister of public security signed a historic agreement at the State Capitol on Friday.

Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner and Vice-Minister Alejandro Garuz signed a memorandum of understanding for annual State Partnership Program planning meetings between the Ministry of Public Security - Panama and the Missouri National Guard.

"We took another very important step in our State Partnership Program with Panama," Danner said. "Today we signed the memorandum of understanding where we have institutionalized a formal planning and execution process of our missions."

The vice-minister also commented on the main objective of the State Partnership Program planning meetings.

The signing of the memorandum is one more step in solidifying the excellent relationships between the partner nations: the United States of America and the Republic of Panama, Garuz said.

The Missouri National Guard will be meeting annually with their Panamanian counterparts to help enhance their existing relationship, Danner said.

The Missouri National Guard officially became Panama's state partner in 1996 and has since conducted over 26 overseas deployment for training missions and over 66 State Partnership Program events.

Throughout the latest visit, the Panamanians and Missouri Guard members were able to tour a number of Missouri facilities and exchange ideas on existing capabilities in both Missouri and Panama.

At the Ike Skelton Training Site, Panamanian officials received briefings on the Missouri Guard and Panama's capabilities and the Guard's response to state emergency duties over the past year.

The Panamanians then briefed the Missouri Guard on their capabilities. Subcommissioner Bolivar Lasso, chief of the citizen security department, Subdirector Cristian Hayer from the National Frontier Force, Commissioner Belsio Gonzalez, director of the National Aero-Naval Service, and Mr. Adrian De Garcia, the director of National Civil Protection provided the capabilities briefs.

In attendance were the deputy directors of the Public Force of Panama, coming from the following security agencies: National Police, National Aerial Naval Service, National Border Service, and the National Civil Protection Service.

The distinguished guests also toured the Missouri National Guard's Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group facility in Springfield. Facility commander Col. William Thomas told Garuz and other Panamanian officials of the capabilities of the aviation repair facility, including the cost savings of helicopter repair done in-house.

For example, the facility's avionics shop can repair vertical situation indicators used in helicopters for $1,000; new indicators come with a price tag of $27,000 each. The southwest Missouri-based facility also repairs ground support equipment such as forklifts and aviation ground power units.

The Panamanians also received tours and briefings at the 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team's facility in Jefferson City.

"I focused a lot on the alert process and how that works, why we work with so many civilian emergency responders so they can hopefully learn from us," said Capt. Joseph Schmitz, the 7th CST deputy commander.

Missouri Guardsmen at the Jefferson City Flight Facility talked about the Guard's capabilities in Aviation.

"It's interesting that we face some of the same challenges with using technology to promote our security at home," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Nowack, aviation standardization officer. "This unit is familiar with a new radio package both we and Panamanians use. Certainly there seems to be opportunities to share our experience with them and increase their capabilities just by using what they already have."

The group also had the opportunity to meet with Missouri's Governor, Jay Nixon. Both parties thanked one another for the relationship and are excited to see how the relationship will continue to grow and develop.

The focus of the Missouri National Guard's engagement has been in the following areas: Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response, Military Exercises, Border, Port, and Aviation Defense and Security, Leadership including officer and noncommissioned officer development, Military Media Relations, Medical, Defense and Democratic Institutions Reform, Natural Resources Protection, Economic Security, University and Education Exchange Programs, and Distance Learning Networks.

The State Partnership between Missouri and Panama is poised to increase significantly in the years that follow. The signing of the agreement shows that both the Missouri National Guard and Panama are committed to their relationship.