NEWS | Oct. 28, 2011

Alaska National Guard SPP with Mongolia uniquely positive

By Air National Guard Maj. Guy Hayes Alaska National Guard

CAMP DENALI, Alaska - The Alaska National Guard hosted the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia here Oct. 18-21, helping to strengthen an already positive relationship between the United States and Mongolia.

The Honorable Jonathan Addleton made his first visit to Alaska to meet National Guard, community, and state leaders.

"The Alaska and Mongolia partnership is regarded in the Pentagon as one of the strongest relationships," Addleton said. "It's really an inspired relationship, where the initial military contacts have become the platform for something very different."

Something different indeed -

Addleton, who also visited with Alaska National Guard Soldiers acting as liaisons to Mongolians in Kabul earlier this year, feels the partnership is a bridge connecting the two countries.

"The reality is that Mongolia and Alaska are similar in some respects," Addleton said. "They are physically the same size, relatively sparsely populated and have logistics requirements that are sometimes daunting. You have the mineral driven economy in both cases, and Alaska's experience in all that offers something to Mongolia as well."

Army Maj. Wayne Don, the Alaska National Guard State Partnership director, feels the Ambassador's visit was important because it went beyond the security aspect of the military to military relationship and focused on the economy and education too.

"It was important to look at the programs and linkages outside of a strict security relationship between Alaska and Mongolia," Don said. "We have a sister city relationship between Erdenet and Fairbanks, an agreement with the Mongolian University of Science and Technology and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"There are also a growing number of students on both the University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Anchorage campuses because of the relationship."

A program that began as a military to military relationship has now created exceptional opportunities for both countries, and according to Addleton both sides benefit from the relationship.

"Without a doubt in terms of the broader bilateral relationship between our two countries, the state partnership program is a positive dimension," Addleton said.

"If this is sustained, it will continue to strengthen. It has already come a long ways and I suspect it will come even further in the years ahead."