FORT KNOX, Ky. - In the early 1990s, as the old Soviet Union was in its final stages of collapse, the United States saw an opportunity to promote peace, minimize regional instability and encourage democracy in the region with what would later be called the State Partnership Program.
Since then State Partnership Program, or SPP, missions have grown to include other countries around the world and have become the essence of security cooperation efforts. But how would the Army train new Soldiers and cadets in security cooperation issues? Bring in the National Guard.
The SPP is managed by the National Guard Bureau. In coordination with National Guard Bureau, overseas commands and U.S. Embassies, most of the states are partnered with another nation for purposes that include educational exchanges, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and emergency responder training, military-to-military contact programs and counter-drug support.
Through these efforts the National Guard not only creates training opportunities for its Soldiers, but helps those partner countries with efforts we take for granted such as emergency response techniques and humanitarian assistance. They are also building lasting relations with people in another country and, through all this, helping to train tomorrow's leaders by supporting U.S. Army Cadet Command's Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program, known as CULP.
According to Maj. Matt DeVivo, the deputy director of public affairs for the North Carolina National Guard, and lead cadre member for the 2013 Moldova CULP mission, North Carolina has been a partner with Moldova and Botswana since before 2008, and both partnerships started with trading ideas and capabilities through government, industry, education and military disciplines.
"The program is not just (military to military)," DeVivo explained of the missions. "It has strong civilian and governmental components with education and industry. The three nations have been collaborating on many projects together, like the sharing of medical research between, East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, multiple military collaborations between active and Reserve components and multiple humanitarian collaborations with North Carolina emergency response professionals, private industry and agricultural leaders."
He added that he felt the ROTC program was important to the development of tomorrow leaders because it would broaden the cadets' understanding about the way people in other countries live and work. Since it is quite possible that some of the cadets would be leaders in the National Guard, it is important for them to know and understand the SPP missions and purposes now.
"My mission (focused) on Moldovan cultural values, beliefs, behaviors and norms and how to work within those limits and accomplish your mission," DeVivo explained. "Language is a bridge to building relationships and understanding cultures. One day these cadets may be serving in a foreign country and having this experience will help them be better leaders."
Through CULP, cadets travel to one of about 40 countries where they practice their leadership skills. They also learn other languages, learn to appreciate other cultures and values, make friends and help to develop better nation relations.
The missions in which the cadets participate are humanitarian, teaching conversational English, military to military training or a combination of the three. But many of these missions are conducted within the National Guard SPP regions where cadets augment the National Guard forces for any or all of these type missions - ultimately enhancing security cooperation.
Maj. Jumaryel "Jay" Castro, the Guam National Guard's J3 plans and operations officer and Guam's SPP coordinator, said their partnership with the Philippines started 10 or 12 years ago, and included six missions or engagements. As of now they have 18 engagements planned for this coming year.
"Our relationship with the Philippines is paired this way because we are the closest in the U.S. to them - we are three hours away," Castro explained. "It benefits both militaries to have this relationship. And because our cultures are similar we relate well."
The Guam National Guard helps the Philippine military with some of its military training - the Philippine military is battling terrorists in the southern part of the country - but their assistance goes beyond the requested military training. All of the missions are at the request of the Philippine military and with the approval of U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. State Department.
"We'll conduct some more emergency responder and (combat life saver) classes, three (medical capability missions), two engineering capability missions and three (humanitarian assist and disaster relief) missions with a partner in the defense threat reduction agency," he said.
During the medical capability missions, military personnel from both countries travel to the outlaying provinces to provide medical care for Filipino people who would otherwise receive none. On the engineering capability missions, the Guam National Guard assists in repairs to community building such as schools and libraries, or upgrading and repairing the roads that snake through the lesser-developed areas.
But the biggest response and most frequent request, Castro continued, is for emergency responder and combat life saver classes. And that is where this year's CULP Cadets came in.
The cadets, almost all of whom were nursing majors, helped with these classes, and at the same time built one-on-one relationships with the students so not only did the students receive one-on-one attention, but when the classes were over the Cadets had new friends, learned a new language, and had a new appreciation for a different culture.
Castro also said that 25 percent of the Philippine soldiers fighting in Mindanao are dying because they are not getting immediate medical care. Until recently the Philippine armed forces didn't have medical platoons or a medical forward support company to assist battalions.
"That end of the country is a hotspot for terrorists' organizations that are jumping off into Asia," he explained. "Groups in Mindanao breed terrorism. So for them to learn CLS (combat live saver) techniques is a valuable tool."
But the medical first responder course is also highly requested because, Castro continued, Philippine armed forces has had big growth in its Reserve Corp, which until recently it didn't have, that acts as a first responder force. Helping to growing the Philippine armed forces Reserve force is actually the Guam National Guard mission, he added.
Because of the location of the country, it experiences a regular monsoon season, flooding and landslides and can experience typhoons, earthquakes and the possibility for a tidal wave is not out of the question.
"So they are taking our Guard and Reserve model and adapting to it. That gives them an auxiliary group to pull from for emergency and natural disaster situations," Castro said. "They are the Philippines first responder force. They live and work in their area so once they are called into duty they automatically become that uniform face to help out. That is one reason they need a larger officer corps in reserve."
Next year, if mission plans go well, Castro and the Philippines will once again host a group of ROTC nurse cadets, and Castro said that he would happily use them as a force multiplier for any medical capability mission.
"They have the medical knowledge and they know body assessments. Even at the reception station when you get the blood pressure of 1,000 people, with nursing cadets there they could assist at the beginning before the patient ever gets to the practitioners," he explained.
"They could also be paired up with the actual nurses and some of the nursing students from the local college that help out. They brought in nurses, doctors and nursing students. It would be great for the cadets to be placed into that mix."
The Florida National Guard also likes the idea of bringing cadets into their SPP mix, because these cadets will be its future leaders.
According to Maj. Bruce Delaporte, the deputy commander for the Florida Recruiting and Retention battalion, the Florida National Guard wants to educate cadets now on international skills and situational awareness with regard to our presence in foreign nations. Their partner nation is Guyana and the Regional Security System of the Eastern Caribbean where the Florida National Guard conducts about 15 SPP missions each year.
"As the previous (officer strength manager) for the Florida Recruiting and Retention battalion, I saw this as a win-win for (us), the partner nations and the cadets," Delaporte explained. "Any time that we can provide high adventure training to our Soldiers (Simultaneous Membership Program members of the Florida National Guard) it is a win for us.
ROTC cadets who traveled with the Florida National Guard to Guyana, as part of a Cadet Command CULP mission, participated in mil-to-mil training with the Guyanese military and its cadets. Such training included the Jungle Amphibious Training School, where cadets learned jungle survival skills that ended in a two-day field training exercise.
Later they participated in a community outreach program that allowed them to work with unprivileged youth and work on local community improvement projects.
"The CULP program provided opportunities that realized real-world training opportunities with our partner nations," he added. "Many of these cadets will become officers within our units and will have already gained the experience and situational awareness of the (local) cultures and the capabilities of the militaries associated with our SPP."