By Senior Airman Jameel Moses
National Guard Bureau Public Affairs
The president of the Republic of Macedonia arrived here today to further develop the nation's ongoing relationship with the Vermont National Guard that began in 1995 with the National Guard State Partnership Program.
"It is really a pleasant feeling to be in Vermont," said Dr. Gjorge Ivanov, who spoke in his native tongue and used a translator. "This is the place where cooperation was initiated 14 years ago, and I'm here today to deepen it even further."
The relationship started as a military relationship between the Eastern European nation and Vermont, but has grown into much more, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard.
"Originally, we did military exchanges to talk about crisis management, emergency response and officer development," he said. "Quickly that relationship started to grow from military to military, to military to civilian, to civilian to civilian.
"Today, different missions have taken part in education, business development, agriculture, economic development, crisis management and first response."
About 700 exchanges have taken place between the two, said Dubie. "That's more than 4,000 people that have flown across the Atlantic to participate in the State Partnership Program. Today, our partnership is at a new level."
Dubie and Ivanov said they hope to take the partnership to the next level in the near future.
"I'm here with General Dubie to discuss the future activities and plans of the Macedonian army and the National Guard of Vermont," said Ivanov.
The president said he hopes to deploy 80 Macedonian servicemembers with the Vermont National Guard, which is deploying about 1,500 Guardsmen to Afghanistan next year.
"We will further investigate the concept of embedding Macedonian soldiers into the Vermont formation in Afghanistan," said Dubie, who acknowledged that the process is a complicated undertaking.
"We hope that we can jointly bring democracy to that part of the world," said Ivanov.