By Capt. Dyana Allen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
Returning from the Vermont National Guard’s State Partnership country, Macedonia, Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, the adjutant general, was extremely optimistic about the future of the partnership and the tri-lateral engagement between Macedonia, Vermont and Senegal, Vermont’s other State Partnership country.
“Our partnership is more than just a program. We truly have friends in Macedonia and I think that is what has made our program strong for the last 22 years. I hope to be able to have Macedonia and Senegal work together on their common interests. They have made real progress in moving their relationships forward and I think this engagement will be mutually beneficial and Vermont will help to facilitate and guide their respective programs to success,” said Cray regarding the tri-lateral engagement.
Cray did not only have tri-lateral engagements on his schedule for this trip and was accompanied by the State Command Sgt. Maj. Toby Quick who worked with his counterparts on noncommissioned officer development as well as integrating into the adjutant general’s itinerary. Cray and Quick visited the military medical center in Skopje, the Country’s capital.
The Army of the Republic of Macedonia showed their visitors just how important their training center is and discussed the finer points of soldier’s saving other soldier’s lives on the battlefield with skills like Self-Aid, Buddy-Care, or better known to the military as ‘SABC.’ Macedonia has, what is known in the military medical field, as a Role 2 Capability meaning that they are able to provide care to fellow military members like basic emergency surgical care and can have the ability to be assigned to an area supporting a brigade type of element. This unit is likely to be the focus for trilateral peace keeping operations training.
In the same building complex, Cray and Quick were able to visit a newly renovated area of the civilian side of the hospital as part of a U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Program project. The hospital has been able to improve its surgery areas and emergency room capabilities, allowing for better on the job training opportunities for army reserve doctors who are employed there.
At a separate project in the Municipality of Illinden, Cray and Quick, along with Ambassador Paul Wohlers, the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia met with the Mayor of Illinden and the Director of the school that participated in USAID’s Interethnic Integration in Education Program (IIEP). Part of that larger program involved a U.S. European command funded rehabilitation of the structure using humanitarian assistance program funds. During the visit Cray, representing US EUCOM J4, assisted the U.S. embassy in a ribbon cutting ceremony and spoke about the importance of shared cultural diversity.
Quick and Cray were both able to discuss noncommissioned officer development.
“NCO development in Macedonia is very strong and they have very professional soldiers. Initially, they started out on modeling our system and they have adapted that to fit their standards and their needs,” Quick stated.
In multiple media engagements, Cray was asked what he thought about the soldiers of Macedonia and their relationship with the Vermont National Guard, he noted not only their professionalism, but also their dedication and how their relationships with individual soldiers in the Vermont National Guard have also developed into a true “brother’s and sister’s in arms” type of relationship.
In a concurrent visit, Brig. Gen. Mark Lovejoy, the chief-of-staff, traveled to Macedonia and assisted in a Domestic Operations visit with State of Vermont officials, Commissioner Keith Flynn, the commissioner of public safety and Director Joe Flynn, the director of the division for emergency management.
Lovejoy and State of Vermont officials were able to collaborate on best practices for domestic operations looking at joint exercises that have been on-going for the last five years with the Vermont National Guard. This was the first opportunity for the Commissioner Flynn and Director Flynn to meet with the leadership of the Macedonian Crisis Management Center and the Army of the Republic of Macedonia and look at resourcing procedures and methods. As Vermont looks forward to their Vigilant Guard exercise in 2016, there have been ongoing discussions to bring over leaders from Macedonia and Senegal to see the exercise and how the Vermont National Guard would respond to an event in the state where the governor requests their assistance.
“I am excited for the future of our programs with Macedonia and Senegal. I believe that the members of Vermont, and the countries of Macedonia and Senegal are working very hard to see how they can utilize the knowledge and professionalism and lessons learned from each other and help make each other more successful in the future,” said Cray.