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By Capt. Mikel Arcovitch
VTNG JFHQ PAO
Skopje, North Macedonia - Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the Adjutant General for the Vermont National Guard, and a delegation of Vermonter Soldiers and Airmen kicked off their visit to North Macedonia at the U.S. Embassy and Ministry of Defense in Skopje on September 25.
North Macedonia and Vermont have been in the state partnership program together since the National Guard program began in 1993.
"This partnership is stronger than ever," said Knight, "I look forward to seeing continued development in the next 30 years."
The busy first day of the visit included meetings with the U.S. Embassy staff and a brief office call with Ms. Angela Aggeler, the U.S. Ambassador to North Macedonia. Aggeler and Knight discussed the strength of the partnership, where it can and will grow from here, and what kind of actionable steps the Vermont Guard can take with the embassy to continuing building. The partnership remains an example of what the state partnership program can look like. "The strength of this enduring partnership with Vermont goes beyond the military relationship, with much room for future growth and further cooperation,” said Aggeler.
The Vermont delegation next met with North Macedonia Lt. Gen. Vasko Gjurchinovski, the Chief of Defense (CHOD) and his general staff. The general staff provided an update on where the Army of North Macedonia was in their progression toward meeting NATO standards and expectations. North Macedonia became a part of NATO in 2018. Since NATO accession, North Macedonia has participated in numerous large-scale NATO training exercises including Swift Response, Defender Europe, and Immediate Response. "I can't replicate the experience my Soldiers get when they come here and train with multiple nations," said Knight, "this progress, forged in our 30 plus years of friendship, is truly the example of what the possibilities are for state partnerships."
Vermont then met with the Minister of Defense for North Macedonia, Slavjanka Petrovska and her staff. This discussion focused on future military training exercises, Modernization of the force and the expansion of the civ-to-civ relationship between Vermont and North Macedonia. Knight and Petrovska discussed hurdles they face with growth in other sectors and pledged to remain vigilant in their pursuits. “North Macedonia is your ally, and you can rely on us. Above all, what's most important is that members of our armed forces have forged true friendships,” said Petrovska. “Behind us are several large exercises that were really successful, and we are already in the planning for bigger and more significant joint training.”
Two years ago Knight was joined by former Vermont Lt. Governor Molly Gray and Vermont Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle on a trip to North Macedonia. This past summer, North Macedonia sent it's Minister of Agriculture, Ljupco Nikolovski to Vermont to observe Vermont farms and agriculture. Both visits punctuate the effort to grow the partnership outside of the military.
Knight concluded the busy day with a press conference with Petrovska, an exclusive interview with Zoran Bogatinov of MRTV out of North Macedonia, and dinner with Gjurchinovski.
"Honestly, I've been coming here for over 20 years, but this is really just the beginning," said Knight, "this partnership will continue to grow well after I've left, and I hope we continue to be a model of what the state partnership program can and should look like."