PORTLAND, Ore. - The partnership between the Oregon National Guard and Bangladesh is an opportunity to develop a relationship that will benefit both entities in the long run, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said today.
"This will be an enduring partnership for developing security, prosperity and the rule of law and democracy in the region," Gen. Craig R. McKinley told an audience at the State Partnership Program Workshop. "This is vitally important."
The Oregon Guard hosted military and civilian leaders from Bangladesh during the workshop held here March 8-11. It was designed to foster mutual interests and establish long-term relationships between individual states and territories, National Guard units and foreign countries.
Some of the topics covered during the workshop were airport and maritime port security, higher education and business opportunities.
James F. Moriarty, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, said the State Partnership program creates a broad synergy between the National Guard and individual countries.
"This partnership brings a tremendous amount of skills to bilateral relationships," he said. "And the National Guard represents the broadest skill set you can imagine."
In the areas of community policing, seaport and airport security, members of the Oregon Guard will be able to assist their Bangladeshi counterparts as the country develops.
"Bangladesh is a rapidly growing country that believes in democracy and wants to play a positive, stabilizing role in a critical area of Asia," Moriarty added.
Akramul Qader, Bangladeshi ambassador to the United States, said the simple act of meeting with officials from the National Guard and other civil agencies is a step toward developing a long-term development plan for Bangladesh.
"When people who are decision makers meet, you actually start getting ideas, which easily translate into action at later stages," he said. "From that point of view, I consider this meeting vitally important."
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who met with both ambassadors during the workshop, said there are many benefits to the partnership with Bangladesh.
"This partnership strengthens our economies, secures our democratic institutions, and most importantly, it uplifts our own humanity," he said.
Brig. Gen. Bruce Prunk, commander of the Oregon Air National Guard, said while the entire State Partnership Program is unique to the National Guard, it also involves the Department of Defense and the State Department.
"This hand-in-glove solution is important to nation building," he said. "This is a long-term, non-military solution, and I think that's how we're going to make inroads in the global war on terrorism."
Maj. Dan Schilling, director of Oregon's State Partnership Program, said the Oregon Guard is very proud of this partnership with Bangladesh.
In spite of different languages and cultures, Schilling said Oregon and Bangladesh have a lot in common.
"We have a strong desire to improve things around us, and a strong independent streak," he said. "Anything we can do to assist them in their journey toward an increase in democracy and prosperity is an honor."
Working with the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID and various business partners utilizing innovative funding streams such as "micro-financing," and the desire to curb radicalism of any form, Bangladeshi people have laid a very solid foundation toward reaching their goals, Schilling said.
"This is very empowering and heartening," he said.
Schilling said another important component of the partnership involves an understanding of each others' cultures.
During the workshop, there was ample opportunity for the visitors to take in the sights in and around Portland, in addition to local culture and cuisine. The Bangladeshi group also took in an NBA basketball game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Sacramento Kings at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, the adjutant general of the Oregon Guard, took Bangladeshi military members on a tour of Oregon's military facilities, including: the Oregon Military Department, Anderson Readiness Center and Army Aviation Support Facility in Salem; the Portland Air National Guard Base in Portland, Ore., and Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, prior to the workshop.
The group also met with directors and staff at the Port of Portland, Portland International Airport, and Portland State University. Event organizers say the tours allowed the visitors to get a good grasp of Oregon's military resources, in addition to civilian, business and educational offerings in the state.
The State Partnership Program currently provides 61 partnerships between states and nations.