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National Guard’s State Partnership Program Turns Twenty 
State Partnership in action 
Massachusetts Air National Guard Lt. Col. Matthew Gage [center, back row] and Massachusetts Army National Guard Lt. Col. Thomas Stewart [fourth from right, back row] celebrate the victorious conclusion of a soccer game they played with their Paraguayan allies, Jan. 22, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Brett Walker)
By Staff Sgt. James C. Lally, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

MILFORD, Mass. – The National Guard Bureau celebrated the 20th anniversary of the State Partnership Program July 17, 2012.

The Massachusetts National Guard has participated in the program to build and foster strategic alliances with its partner nation Paraguay since 2001.

The Guard is well suited for this mission and serves as an example for developing countries on how military leaders can support their elected civilian leaders.

Discussing how Paraguay has embraced this concept, Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard (Acting), said, “For the first time in over 200 years, Paraguay has had a contentious transfer of government without violence. I'm proud of our military partners there for allowing elected civilian officials to determine the course of events. It is uplifting to see our partners put our shared values into practice in this way.”

When the program began in 2001 it consisted mostly of meetings but has developed considerably since then.

Discussing the program’s evolution Brig. Gen. Paul G. Smith said, “Over the years the partnership has grown steadily to include many professional exchanges and projects where we've rolled up our sleeves and worked together. We send medical teams out into the Paraguayan countryside several times a year. Our doctors work side-by-side with Paraguayan medical and military personnel to try to improve the health of poor citizens who live in remote areas.”

A benefit of allying with countries with similar interests is that it can share the responsibility to provide humanitarian assistance missions.

Providing an example Smith said, “The Paraguayans currently have a peacekeeping force in Haiti as part of the United Nations effort there and they're doing a great job. We've worked closely with the officers and troops of the peacekeeping company.”

The program was meant to develop a strong relationship to support medical operations, peace-keeping operations and to offer guidance to assist Paraguay to modernize its Air Force.

Airmen often travel to Paraguay to share their expertise in the areas of equipment procurement, safety and maintenance procedures that guarantee a well maintained and ready Air Force.

Smith said, “Our Air Guard officers and noncommissioned officers have worked hard to help improve the safety and maintenance operations of the Paraguayan Air Force.”

Reflecting on the benefits of the program Smith said, “Over the years many of us have developed a real respect and affection for the people of Paraguay. We admire their capacity for hard work and perseverance, their values, and their passionate patriotism. I hope that our close relationship with this wonderful country continues for many years to come because both the Paraguayan military and the Massachusetts National Guard benefit from our partnership.”

There is only one dedicated person to manage the program and it uses selected personnel and equipment for specific short-term missions when necessary to minimize the need for funding and resources.

Further elaborating on the benefits of the program, Ltc. Ryan Floyd, international partnership specialist, Massachusetts National Guard manager said, “Programs like the State Partnership Program are low budget but high payoff in terms of national security and regional cooperation initiatives.”

“Our Soldiers and Airmen experience operating in an austere environment, exposure to other cultures, gain insight into South American military operations and build enduring relationships,” Floyd said.