RAPID CITY, S.D. - The South Dakota National Guard hosted three key leaders from the Suriname Armed Forces July 10-14 to share information on the structure and operational processes of the National Guard as a reserve force.
The purpose of the Surinamers' visit was to research how to implement a reserve military force in their home country. The subject matter expert exchange between the South Dakota National Guard and Suriname was conducted as part of the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, in coordination with U.S. Southern Command.
Currently, there is no reserve force in Suriname, but leaders of the South American nation are interested in standing up a company-sized unit of approximately 100 reservists in the next few years to help relieve the workload of its active army soldiers.
"If you start with a reserve force - a small one - then you can use the reserve force to take some tasks from the regular army, and you can free up the regular army for operations in the interior of Suriname," said Col. Adolf Jardim, deputy commander of the Suriname Armed Forces.
Creating this type of force will also help Suriname cut military spending, Jardim said.
"They are taking steps in using their scarce resources in the best possible way, and having a professional reserve force is one way to reduce cost," said Lt. Col. Orson Ward, South Dakota National Guard State Partnership Program director. "A reserve force is cost effective, but they are also looking at the reserve force possibly having specific missions that would allow the full-time force to focus in on other areas."
During their visit, the Suriname military leaders learned about the South Dakota National Guard's force structure and how the organization works from top to bottom. The primary focus of the visit was directed toward discussing personnel issues and recruiting, while also looking at operations and training. The Suriname soldiers also spent time with logistics personnel and with special staff, including the staff judge advocate, chaplain and safety officers.
"During the few days that we were in South Dakota, we gained a lot of information," said Maj. Lesley Paul Nojodipo, head of military operations in the Suriname Armed Forces. "Out of this experience, we will bring back a report that can be sent up to the chief of defense ... and then higher command will make a decision (about setting up a reserve force)."
The Surinamers visited with members from the South Dakota National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters and the 109th Regional Support Group, both based in Rapid City. They also had the opportunity to visit with Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, adjutant general of the South Dakota National Guard, on his leadership priorities and perspective of the National Guard.
"We enjoy helping people, especially our partner nation, and if the information we provided makes their organization better then it is personally and professionally rewarding," Ward said.
The partnership between the South Dakota National Guard and Suriname was formally initiated in August 2006, to develop a mutually beneficial, long-term security cooperation relationship between the two partners. South Dakota was selected to be Suriname's partner based upon similarities in culture, population size, land mass and agricultural-based economies.
Over the last eight years, the two entities have conducted nearly 100 exchanges to help promote response capacity for natural disasters and providing humanitarian relief, building partnership capacity for peacekeeping operations, enhancing regional access and advancing security sector reform.
"By having partnerships with countries across the world - like the one the South Dakota National Guard has with Suriname - it supports overall global stability and security," said Ward. "If the information we provided on how a reserve force works and operates helps Suriname military leaders in establishing their own reserve force, then that is not only going to benefit the stability and security of their country, but the region as well, and that is what the State Partnership Program is all about."