A two-day training workshop for over sixty North Dakota National Guard military, state representatives and Ghanaian dignitaries held at the Radisson Hotel in North Dakota has ended.
The State Partnership Program (SPP) provided participants with a working knowledge of the country of Ghana. It also allowed the participant to network and create synergy in order to explore ideas for future cooperation and exchanges.
Last August, Governor John Hoeven and North Dakota National Guard Adjutant General, Major Gen. Michael Haugen announced North Dakota's participation in the National Guard sponsored State Partnership Program with the African country of Ghana. The state of North Dakota through the North Dakota National Guard formally requested to partner with Ghana because of relevant socio-economic, strategic and military training opportunities that mutually benefit Ghana, the United States and North Dakota. “Our National Guard is playing a huge role in the global war on terrorism and our country's military effort to build alliances with other countries,” Hoeven said. “North Dakota's partnership with Ghana will build these alliances and help build stability, democracy and freedom throughout the world.” Brigadier Gen. Emmanuel Okyere, Ghanaian Defense, Military, Naval and Air Attaché, Embassy of Ghana in Washington DC, at a press conference with North Dakota Governor John Hoeven said, “Ghana has the finest Armed Forces in Africa and has supplied troops for peacekeeping operations for over forty years. We have a lot to offer the North Dakota National Guard as well and we look forward to a long and friendly relationship”.
“We are very excited about the North Dakota and Ghana State Partnership Program and the synergy that will happen between our two countries,” Brigadier Okyere added.
Professors David Owusu Ansah of the Department of History, James Madison University and Dr. Patrick Osei, Delaware State University also spoke on different aspects of Ghana. Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, National Guard Bureau Chief, who addressed the attendees, also assured participants of his commitment to the State Partnership Program. "It is readily apparent with the global war on terrorism that the United States must remain fully engaged in the international community. The National Guard's unique civil-military nature is of great interest to the international community, and the State Partnership Program is a valuable and flexible tool for supporting our nation's Security Cooperation Guidance”, Mr. Blum said.
Mr. Blum urged all to remain strong proponent for continuing these partnerships and help strengthen those where relationships may have diminished."
Those partnerships, ranging from military training to suggestions for economic development, form a critical part of the National Guard's efforts to help this country maintain international stability, Blum said. Major General Haugen explained that “Our citizen Soldiers and Airmen possess a diverse set of skills both military and civilian hence the wealth of knowledge they carry provides them with the versatility necessary to initiate this venture, adding that the “The National Guard is the model for the role of the military in Ghana's emerging democracy.” The relationship between the North Dakota National Guard and Ghana will evolve and expand over time. It usually begins with bilateral "military-to-military" activities, expands to include military support to civil authorities, and ultimately, the partnership evolves to include all aspects of the public and private sector. Activities include state and local governments and governmental agencies, sister cities projects, teacher exchanges, academic institutions, social, cultural, and charitable organizations, and the list goes on.
Countries engaging in partnership activities participate in a multitude of exchanges ranging in a variety of topics, such as local law enforcement programs, counter drug programs, disaster planning and response, establishing volunteer programs, and environmental protection. The program goes well beyond military-to-military contact and seeks to incorporate local, city and state contacts from all levels of society. Many exchanges have included visits to utilities companies, public works departments and universities.
In the spring of 1993, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, newly free of Soviet domination, sought assistance in developing a national military structure based upon the National Guard's model of a part-time military force that could be used in domestic, as well as, national emergencies. The U.S. National Guard system serves as an excellent example of a professional military force that is subordinate to civilian authority and can be used in domestic emergencies or to fight and win wars.
Another reason for developing a National Guard style military is the cost benefit in savings. The U.S. National Guard costs roughly 80 percent less to operate than active duty components. For newly emerging nations and fledgling democracies, the staggering cost of maintaining a large standing army is prohibitive. By choosing a citizen-soldier based military, countries can invest the savings into their economy and build prosperity while ensuring their security.
It has grown in such magnitude that today there are 43 states, two territories and the District of Columbia that are partnered with 49 countries around the world. The North Dakota National Guard is eager to spearhead the State Partnership Program and appreciates the future possibilities it presents to the North Dakota National Guard and the state of North Dakota. The coordinator for the State Partnership Program is Lt. Col. Pete Conlin who has traveled to Ghana several times since last August to begin the initial planning and coordination. In addition, he will be working with the various agencies and organizations in the state to explore future opportunities.