National Guard State Partnership Program garners prestigious award

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By Army Sgt. Darron Salzer | National Guard Bureau

National GuardARLINGTON, Va. (9/15/11) - The National Guard's 65-nation State Partnership Program won a major award here Tuesday.

The 20-year-old program launched in the final days of the Cold War received the 2011 William J. Perry Award for Excellence in Security and Defense Education.

Presented annually by the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies to an individual and/or institution, the award recognizes the National Guard State Partnership Program's significant contributions in the Western Hemisphere.

"It is a tremendous honor for us on behalf of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies to be able to give this award to [the] National Guard Bureau on behalf of [its] State Partnership Program," said Richard Downie, director.

Proposed by former Secretary of Defense William Perry to address regional defense and security concerns, the CHDS is headquartered at the National Defense University here.

The Center's primary missions include promoting education, research, outreach and knowledge-sharing in Western Hemisphere defense and security issues. The Western Hemisphere is North, Central, Latin and South America; the Caribbean and the West Indies.

The SPP was selected by unanimous decision, Downie said. "It has turned out to be a very … diverse program that helps build relationships," he said. "They are promoting trust and confidence and they are doing positive things that are helping those countries."

Beginning in 1996 with Belize and Louisiana; Ecuador and Kentucky; Panama and Missouri; and Peru and West Virginia, "there are now 22 states that have partnerships with 28 countries in the Western Hemisphere," said Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Also accepting the award for the Guard was retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John Conaway, the chief of the National Guard Bureau from 1990 to 1993, a SPP founding father.

"Today, the National Guard – as part of the Department of Defense security cooperation and global engagement – has 65 partnerships around the world," McKinley said.

"I accept this award on behalf of all the adjutants generals – we have 54 of them … who represent our SPP around the world," McKinley said, "together with their counterpart officials in our SPP partner nations who are responsible for the success of the National Guard State Partnership Program in the Western Hemisphere.

"Who really knows how many lives were not lost, how many wars were not started or how many dollars were not spent because of mutual trust and understanding between nations?

"These partnerships are mutually beneficial relationships. I'm especially grateful to defense military officials from our partner nations for sharing with us their knowledge, experience and insights in facing the transnational challenges of the region."

McKinley said he values not only what is shared within security and defense education, but also what is shared on a more personal level.

"In addition to your security and operational expertise, you have also generously shared with us your rich history, culture and languages which has enhanced our knowledge and understanding of our neighbors … and provided a solid foundation for our continued close cooperation, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

Downie said, "What our Guardsmen do – not only throughout this country, but throughout the world … not just in our hemisphere – is an absolute national treasure."

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