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By Sgt. 1st Class Jason Alvarez
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
The United States operates a two-prong military system with active and reserve forces. The federal government operates the Department of Defense while the individual fifty-four states and territories support the National Guard. The National Guard is the first-responder in the event of a catastrophic event within a state, such as a hurricane, flooding, or wildfire. The DOD operates a program called The State Partnership Program that provides opportunities for National Guard troops to perform their mission in another country while supporting National Security and US public diplomacy objectives. A State Partnership is thus an agreement between the United States and a foreign government to conduct joint security cooperation activities. The state of Vermont has had a partnership with the Government of Senegal since 2008.
Recently, the commander of the Vermont National Guard (Adjutant General of Vermont) Colonel Knight posed this question to Senegalese President Macky Sall: “How can we further build upon and improve the relationship Vermont has had with Senegal for 11 years under the guidance of the State Partnership Program?”
Vermont has completed 20 events with Senegal since October 2018. Most of the events focus on medical care, Professional Military Education, Disaster Preparedness Response, Humanitarian Mine Action, Physical Security and Stockpile Management ammunition and support to Peacekeeping Operations.
While meeting with Colonel Knight and local leaders, the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, The Honorable Tulinabo S. Mushingi asked those present, “Why does the partnership between Vermont and Senegal matter?” He gave three reasons. “The first is the economic benefits to both countries. There are many areas where Vermont can assist and advise with infrastructure development like waste management or medical facilities. The second reason is security and public health, for Senegal and the U.S.”
Currently Senegal is the eighth largest contributor of uniformed personnel to United Nations peacekeeping operations with more than 3,000 troops and police taking part in six missions. Vermont has helped Senegal prepare for these missions by working with the Senegalese engineers to upgrade the capacity and safety for their range facilities for training.
“The third reason the partnership is important to both countries is good governance. The partnership shows that the government cares about the citizens, and offers them opportunities for growth. For Senegal that can mean lowering unemployment through commercial ties. For the U.S. that means a return on investment for commercial entities.”
The National Guard’s partnership activities provide highly cost-effective ways to foster strong international partnerships and increase U.S. national security. The program also leverages whole-of-society relationships to facilitate broader interagency engagements covering military, government, economic and social realms.
“It is important to understand how important our partnership with Senegal is for both the Vermont National Guard and for our host country Senegal. The lasting professional friendships that result are the true measure of the program’s success,” stated Knight.