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By 1st Lt. Nathan Rivard
Joint Force Headquarters - Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
With a stroke of the pen, the Vermont National Guard and Republic of Austria’s letter of intent formalizing their partnership under the State Partnership Program is official.
On July 19, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, Vermont’s adjutant general; U.S. Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau; Klaudia Tanner, federal minister of defense of the Republic of Austria; and Lt. Gen. Erich Csitkovits, training director and commandant, National Defence Academy, performed a signing ceremony in Vienna to formalize the relationship between the Republic of Austria and Vermont.
“Today’s ceremony is not the finish line of a 40-year friendship. It is the beginning of a new deeper partnership built on global security, economic cooperation, shared values and cultural exchange,” Hokanson said. “By working together, pooling our resources, and learning from each other, we enhance readiness and interoperability. We deepen enduring friendships and further understanding. We invest in ourselves and we invest in our shared future.”
The signing ceremony mirrored the one held in Vermont May 11, which included Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, the Republic of Austria minister of defense and military officials from Vermont and Austria.
“Vermont and Austria already share many economic and cultural ties,” Scott said at the Vermont signing. “This exciting new partnership will strengthen our relationship, and I know it will be of great benefit to all involved.”
Austria and Vermont already had a longstanding partnership dating back more than 30 years with the Vermont National Guard’s Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, the U.S. Army Biathlon Program, and training conducted with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain). Vermont National Guard members and Austrians also served together last year when deployed to Kosovo as part of Kosovo Force (KFOR).
“When creating our Army Mountain Warfare School, the first place we reached out to for expertise and guidance was the Austrian Army. We benefited greatly from our ongoing relationship with Austrian military mountaineers since 1983,” said Knight. “So, while our friendship is not new, our formal partnership will allow for even more collaboration to increase security cooperation in the region.”
Austrian’s federal minister of defense agreed on the value of the partnership.
“Synergies created in the past decades, we decided to expand the cooperation within the framework of the State Partnership Program after the National Guard,” said Tanner.
Knight is eager to develop the partnership.
“Over the coming years, we hope to conduct many military exchanges to mutually improve in areas such as cyber defense, peacekeeping operations, military mountaineering, and humanitarian and disaster assistance response,” said Knight.