Story by Brandon Jones
AUSTIN, Texas- It is a well-known fact the National Guard’s core mission includes fighting America’s wars and securing the homeland, but perhaps a lesser-known mission is that of building enduring partnerships.
From April 10-13, 2019, members of the Texas National Guard and Chilean Armed Forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the Annual State Partnership Program Planning Meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance, and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development.
“Both our state and their nation have significant responsibilities with regards to disaster response, and experience is often one of the best teachers so what better way to support one another than helping to share and improve upon best practices,” said Maj. Mark White, State Partnership Program Director, Texas Military Department. “An experience our Soldiers and Airmen value, a great secondary benefit to SPP is the exchanging of our cultures and what makes Chile and Texas special places respectively. We create lifelong friendships through every event together.”
In addition to planning events for the fiscal year 2020, this trip included multiple activities commemorating the tenth anniversary of the partnership. On April 12, 2019, the Chilean delegation was presented with a proclamation from the Deputy Secretary of State of Texas, Jose A. Esparza, recognizing and honoring the important partnership between the Texas National Guard and the Republic of Chile. This same group was furthered honored on the House floor of the Texas Capitol prior to signing the formal agreement on the steps of the Texas Capitol.
“Today’s events, in which representatives from Texas and Chile were standing side-by-side, exemplify the solidarity of our commitment to the program and one another,” said White. “In 2020 we will jointly execute over 40 SPP events in both of our countries as we start our second decade of partnership which strives to be the model for SPP in SOUTHCOM.”
In a Strategic Studies Quarterly article published in 2018 Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stated SPP is future focused and adaptive to geopolitical changes. Lengyel says NGB has seen the program grow from assisting nations in developing more modern and professional militaries functioning under civilian control to partnerships that look to deepen interoperability with complementary capabilities and forces.
"Beyond the military benefits, we have witnessed the fruits of these relationships as they help the United States maintain and grow its alliances across the globe through enduring and personal relationships," said Lengyel. "What began as a program of 10 partnerships in Eastern Europe has spread across five continents and currently encompasses approximately one-third of the nations in the world."
As part of the program and in addition to Chile, the Texas and Nebraska National Guards share a partnership with the Czech Republic. In 2018, the Czech Armed Forces and its state partners commemorated the 25th anniversary of the union. Under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program there are currently 76 partnerships in place and support to 83 nations around the globe.