NEWS | July 24, 2015

South Dakota Guard, Suriname Armed Forces exchange strategic planning processes

By By 1st Lt. Chad Carlson South Dakota National Guard

PARAMARIBO, Suriname - Members of the South Dakota National Guard, the Suriname Armed Forces and the Suriname Ministry of Defense participated in a subject matter expert exchange on strategic planning in Paramaribo, Suriname, in July.

South Dakota and Suriname, in coordination with U.S. Southern Command, established a successful security cooperation relationship in 2006 under the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program.

Since then, numerous exchanges have taken place between the SDNG and Suriname's armed forces to share experiences and best practices in a variety of military training and topics.

This latest exchange sent two members of the SDNG to South America where they worked with officials on assessing each organization's challenges and advantages and shared various methods of strategic planning.

"The strategic plan is the vehicle that allows an organization to achieve a future state of success or to achieve its organizational vision," said Lt. Col. Orson Ward, the State Partnership Program director for the SDNG and a participant in the exchange. "It's no different in the Suriname Armed Forces as it is in the South Dakota National Guard."

The importance of setting long-term organizational goals was one of many methods discussed over the two-day exchange.

"Strategic planning is really about being able to set long-term goals and having your entire organization focused on achieving those goals, as opposed to random short-term or mid-term goals," said Ward. "What's most important about developing a plan like this, or thinking in this way, is it allows the organization to use scarce resources most effectively."

Ward, along with Maj. Kevin Miller, the state strategic planner with the South Dakota Air National Guard, spent one day learning of the strategic planning process used in Suriname and another discussing the methods used within the SDNG.

"We really shared some tools that they can utilize over the next several months," said Ward. "Then, we plan on following up to see if those tools were effective. Did they find a better way to use those tools that we can learn from? The exchange is for us as well.

"They are extremely resourceful, because they're forced to be due to their limited resources," said Ward. "They have to be very creative with how they spend their resources and those are things that we can learn from."

Ward also said he was pleased with feedback he and Miller received on taking what can be a very complex process and simplifying it.

"There's a lot of simplicity in the science of strategic planning," said Ward. "Understanding that can sometimes be intimidating for an organization or intimidating for planners. The approach we took in the exchange showed a very simple step-by-step method that produced the output of a vision, goal or objective."

Future areas of exchange between the SDNG and the Suriname Armed Forces will include human rights exchanges in regards to a military organization and prevention of infectious disease.

"Those are two areas that U.S. Southern Command is leveraging our State Partnership Program to fill some of the key gaps of their security cooperation objectives," Ward said.

Since the 2006 security cooperation relationship between South Dakota and Suriname, more than 90 engagement activities have been conducted, which include promoting response capacity and capability for natural disasters and promoting humanitarian relief, and maintaining healthy military-to-military relationships.

"Both Maj. Miller and I came back with an enriching experience by participating in the exchange," said Ward. "To exchange information with leadership within their armed forces that are making decisions and plans for their entire country was a real privilege."