NEWS | Aug. 3, 2015

South Carolina National Guard hosts Colombian partners in recent exchange

By Sgt. Brian Calhoun South Carolina National Guard

COLUMBIA, S.C. - As part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program, maintenance personnel from the Republic of Colombia's armed forces recently spent five days in Columbia, South Carolina, to participate in a subject matter expert exchange with South Carolina National Guard members.

The visit, conducted July 13-17, included stops at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, the South Carolina National Guard Headquarters, South Carolina Military Museum, as well as the South Carolina National Guard Joint Operations Center and South Carolina Emergency Management Division. One of the highlights for the maintenance teams was a visit to the Donaldson Aviation facility in Greenville, where they shared aviation maintenance techniques and viewed various airframes. Much of the visit was also focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster response discussions.

"From a national and international standpoint, the South Carolina National Guard and Colombia's on-going exchanges helps to forge and maintain an effective relationship for the 21st century and beyond," said Lt. Col. Lawrence Miller, J5, deputy director for strategic plans, South Carolina Army National Guard.

Miller added that the Colombian delegation also met with members of the J5 staff and discussed how the planning process is vital in enhancing their partnership at the strategic and global levels.

"Strategic planning techniques provide predictability, establish organizational priorities, and aligns them with resources," Miller said. "It implements continuous process improvement and reaffirms our mission, vision and values, especially as we expand the state partnership program."

The National Guard Bureau established the State Partnership Program in 1994 and today there are more than 70 countries participating in the multinational initiative.

"Our state partnership with the Republic of Colombia is one of the best things we do in the National Guard," said Col. Wallace Bonds, J5, director for strategic plans, South Carolina National Guard. "For very little money, time and resources, our Guard members and leaders get to interact with the military of a great country."

Bonds shared from his years of working with the SPP, one of the greatest returns from the program is from the Guard members who interact during these engagements and the lifelong relationships they will forge.

South Carolina joined the state partnership program in 2012 and has since conducted multiple engagements both at home and in Colombia that are building long-lasting capabilities for both partners.

"This recent visit was the seventh engagement for the helicopter maintenance teams in supporting that line of effort," said Lt. Col. David King, the State Partnership Program director for the South Carolina National Guard. "It demonstrates the mutual commitment of everyone involved."