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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | April 30, 2015

Florida National Guard brings Florida law enforcement and Guyana together for communications equipment exchange

By Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa, Florida National Guard

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Strong partnerships often produce powerful results.

For the Florida National Guard, a professional relationship that stretches across the vast Caribbean has resulted in an exchange of communications equipment that will net positive results for both local law enforcement agencies in Florida and the South American nation of Guyana.

In 2013, Soldiers working with the Florida National Guard's State Partnership Program (SPP) noticed that some of the nations in the eastern Caribbean, including Guyana, were in dire need of communications equipment for emergency operations and even for daily response to emergency calls. Since these nations face potentially destructive tropical storms and other disasters each year, a robust emergency communications network could save countless lives.

Utilizing contacts with law enforcement in St. Johns County - where the Florida National Guard has its headquarters - the SPP program found that two local agencies had more than $1 million in obsolete radio and radio equipment that were impractical due to bandwidth issues in the U.S. Several radios had already been given to other agencies within the U.S., but what were left were set for storage or destruction, according to Capt. David Tavares of the SPP.

The SPP experts discovered that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) was in need of the equipment and would happily take them from the St. Augustine Beach Police Department and the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. Last year the Florida National Guard helped facilitate the relationship between Guyana's military and the Florida police agencies, and all of the equipment was taken to Guyana via space-available flights.

"(The communications officer from the GDF) was ecstatic," Tavares said "He couldn't believe he was getting such a large donation. It is a donation from the police to Guyana; all we used was space-available travel to get the equipment there."

On April 30, Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun personally thanked St. Augustine Beach Chief of Police Robert Hardwick and St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar for their agencies' part in the equipment transfer. Calhoun presented plaques to Hardwick and Shoar on behalf of GDF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Mark Phillips.

"By November 2014 we had successfully, through the State Partnership Program, coordinated the exchange of about $1 million worth of equipment," Calhoun said, noting that the radio equipment's worth could possibly increase four times as much for the GDF.

"They can communicate better during emergencies," he added, and they will "provide immense security" to Guyana.

Both Sheriff Shoar and Chief Hardwick expounded on the professional relationship they have with the Florida National Guard, with Shoar calling the ongoing partnership a "great symbiotic relationship."

The SPP emerged 20 years ago, and links state National Guards with the defense ministries of partner nations. Currently the SPP includes more than 70 military-to-military partnerships with other nations. The SPP supports U.S. national interests and security cooperation goals by engaging partner nations via military, socio-political and economic conduits at the local, state and national level.

The Florida National Guard SPP currently maintains partnerships with Guyana and Caribbean nations in the Regional Security System, which include: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; St. Christopher and Nevis; Grenada; St. Lucia; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.