STAFF SGT. JIM GREENHILL / U.S. ARMY
Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, Hawaii state adjutant general, left, and Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, discussed yesterday the expansion of a program that partners states with foreign countries to help them with military and other security issues.
Guard to boost Pacific ties
A National Guard program partners U.S. states with foreign countries
A National Guard program developed by the Pentagon in the late 1990s to fill the strategic vacuum left in Central Europe by the collapse of the Soviet Union will expand into the Pacific in the next decade, a key National Guard leader predicted yesterday.
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, who heads the National Guard Bureau, said his force, including the Hawaii National Guard, exemplifies the ideals of democracy and professionalism.
"They bring not only their very, very fine military skills to this partnership, but each and every one of these citizen soldiers bring civilian experience, civilian-acquired skills, civilian life experiences and the ability to interact with other people in an environment outside of the military," the three-star general added.
Blum made the comments after the first conference of the Pacific State Partnership Program, in which guardsmen work with their counterparts in countries like Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, tackling both military and civilian situations, such as disaster relief efforts.
For instance, Hawaii's partner is Indonesia, said Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, state adjutant general.
Hawaii National Guard soldiers will participate in April in an exercise called Garuda Shield in Indonesia, and Indonesian noncommissioned soldiers will be included in classes at the Hawaii National Guard's training center at Bellows Air Force Station.
Indonesia also will participate in the state civil defense's annual hurricane preparedness exercises in May, Lee added.
Blum said he expects that these partnerships will grow to 70 in the next three years with some states having more than one partner.
The State Partnership Program began in 1993 with the pairing of the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia with Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland, respectively. Later partnerships were added with South and Central American countries.
In 2000, Hawaii was paired with the Philippines, and that relationship was changed last year, with Guam taking over that relationship and Hawaii finding a new partner in Indonesia.
That partnership was "particularly significant because of the country's geographical location and the strategic importance of Indonesia," Blum said. "It also has the largest Muslim population in the world."
Blum said Oregon will be paired with Bangladesh. Colorado, which already has a relationship with Slovenia, has added Jordan as a new partner. North Carolina now is partnered with Botswana as well as Moldova, and Vermont picked up Senegal as a new partner in addition to Macedonia.