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By Sgt. Denis Nunez
In a significant demonstration of support for the strengthening relationship between the Vermont National Guard and Austria, Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, joined Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, The Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Tracy Poirier, Director of the Joint Staff, in key meetings with the Austrian Bundesheer leadership.
These discussions, held at the Ministry of Defense in Vienna, focused on the future prospects of the State Partnership Program. The highlight was the introduction of a new 'whole of society' program, aimed at reinforcing transatlantic ties and promoting democratic values across borders.
"This evolution is a prime example of the opportunities the State Partnership Program offers both sides of the relationship," said Hokanson. "The room for cooperation and growth is vast not only in global security but also in the economic and cultural sectors."
The visit to the Theresian Military Academy was a cornerstone event, where Brig. Gen. Poirier, representing Norwich University, and Austrian counterparts signed an agreement establishing a student exchange program for cadets. This initiative exemplifies the educational and cultural exchange goals of the partnership.
Further enhancing the cultural aspect of the visit, the 40th Army Band from Vermont gave a memorable performance in honor of Ambassador Victoria Kennedy and esteemed guests from both Austria and Vermont. The event was a testament to the shared joy and camaraderie between the two regions.
Ambassador Kennedy, along with the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, expressed heartfelt appreciation for the visit, underscoring the significance of such engagements in strengthening international relations.
“The impact of the State Partnership Program is nothing short of phenomenal. The strong relationships being built and the mutual trust being developed promise exciting opportunities for the future as our partnership continues to grow,” said Kennedy.
Additionally, the Vermont National Guard delegates were the honored guests at the prestigious 2024 Ball der Offiziere, where the 40th Army Band performed, further symbolizing not just a formal partnership but a deep-rooted connection and commitment to future cooperation.
"Our Austrian colleagues have been incredible hosts, and we are honored to be their guests,” said Knight. “I am excited about the prospect of our exchanges to continue both here and in Vermont. Vermont-Austria relations promise mutual benefits in military collaboration, cultural exchange, and the advancement of shared democratic ideals beyond a traditional military to military partnership.”