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NEWS | Oct. 29, 2010

Liberian president receives Michigan Guard, AFRICOM delegations in Monrovia

By Kenneth Fidler, U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs

MONROVIA, Liberia, - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said she is "pleased" about establishing a military partnership program with the U.S. state of Michigan.

Johnson-Sirleaf received delegations from the Michigan National Guard, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), and U.S. Embassy October 27, 2010, to inaugurate Liberia's State Partnership Program (SPP) with Michigan.

"The strength of the partnership is the relationship we build," Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, the adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, told Johnson-Sirleaf during a breakfast meeting at her residence. "We see the partnership as a long-term relationship."

The meeting also wrapped up a three-day visit to Liberia by an AFRICOM delegation led by Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, the command's deputy to the commander for civil-military activities.

Holmes, accompanied by James Hart, AFRICOM's deputy director for programs, looked at security force assistance activities AFRICOM conducts in this West Africa nation, which continues reconstruction efforts after 14 years of civil war that ended in 2003.

In January 2010, AFRICOM started a five-year mentoring and advising mission with the Armed Forces of Liberia. It is also working to assist with the development of the recently re-activated Liberian Coast Guard.

Liberia is the eighth African nation to establish a military partnership with a U.S. state. The program has been in existence since for 20 years and currently pairs 62 nations worldwide with a U.S. state.

It is designed to establish long-term relationships in which U.S. states and their partnered nations share best practices and expert knowledge in a range of areas and promote bilateral relations.

Michigan has also been a partner with the Baltic nation Latvia since 1992.

Because Guardsmen are commonly referred to as "citizen-soldiers," they bring unique experiences as both military service members and professionals in their full-time careers in other fields, such as medicine, emergency response and law.

"The relationship on the civilian side is why I was so enamored with the program," U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the president. "They have other careers and jobs and can bring that experience to the relationship."

Cutler also presented to the president a certificate of tribute signed by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm that recognizes the partnership between Michigan and Liberia.

"We are looking forward to this," Johnson-Sirleaf said. "I hope we can really build the relationship and point to something that ... we can say came out of this partnership."