National Guard Partnerships Spread in Africa

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - The adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard sits in a wood-paneled briefing room for an update on the African nation of Senegal.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie is making office calls here with staff at U.S. Air Forces in Europe and 17th Air Force.

For 14 years, the Vermont National Guard has been in the National Guard's State Partnership Program with the Balkan nation of Macedonia, once part of the former Yugoslavia, and now Vermont also is partnered with Senegal.

USAFE's area of responsibility includes Macedonia, and 17th Air Force supports U.S. Africa Command, which includes Senegal.

Adjutant generals view such office calls as mandatory stops as they pursue SPP activities with their partner nations. The National Guard is one part of a larger team bent on improving partnership capacity.

"We're talking about the integration between what their mission is in their area of responsibility and the State Partnership Program," Dubie explained. "The State Partnership Program is one of the tools in their tool kit to further their goal - either on a bilateral or a multilateral basis - and we want to work on a collaborative basis and be an asset for [combatant commands] to accomplish whatever the [combatant commanders'] goals are."

Macedonia is within U.S. European Command, which watched Africa until it spawned the creation of AFRICOM last year, a separate combatant command headed by Gen. William E. Ward, himself once EUCOM's deputy combatant commander.

It was with EUCOM nations that the SPP started back in 1993, following the collapse of the Iron Curtain. State partnerships foster military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian cooperation.

"Since I've been doing this type of interaction for about 14 years, I can tell that AFRICOM has adopted the EUCOM model," Dubie said. "Some of the other [combatant commands] haven't quite adopted as aggressive a State Partnership Program."

Twenty National Guard states have partnerships with 21 countries within the EUCOM area of operations. Six nations within AFRICOM's purview have SPP partnerships and at least two more are expected soon.

"As AFRICOM develops into a more robust program on the continent, the relationships that are being built right now between different U.S. states and their African counterparts can help AFRICOM accomplish their theater strategic plan," Dubie said. "It's really important for the U.S. states in the State Partnership Program to always keep in mind what the [combatant commanders'] goals are, in addition to knowing the specific country team goals as articulated by each separate ambassador."

The hyphenated pedigree of the Guard member - citizen-Soldier or citizen-Airman - makes the National Guard unique in its ability to deliver, Ward has said.

"There's only one branch of our services, one arm of our services, one component of our services that brings that to the table: That's our Guard," he said at the 2007 EUCOM SPP workshop. "The work that you all do is an absolutely critical element to our engagement strategy."

So it's no surprise that Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, the deputy for military operations at AFRICOM, already has been to a workshop in Vermont to meet with chiefs of defense from SPP nations.

"General Ward and the entire team at AFRICOM want to work on a very collaborative basis with the states," Dubie said.

Meanwhile, Vermont hit the ground running with its latest partnership. It took several years for the state to move from military-to-military through military-to-civilian to civilian-to-civilian activities with Macedonia, but Dubie said that's all happening at once with Senegal.

"We aggressively are trying to simultaneously implement events in all three venues," he said.

The SPP enriches the National Guard as well as its foreign partners, he said.

"The fact that we are becoming smarter about world affairs and we're building lasting relationships make it a success - and we haven't even talked about the specifics of military operations," Dubie said. "It's what the United States as a whole needs to do more. American society needs to understand other parts of the world better - and if we can start doing that by the Vermont National Guard, that's a good thing for Vermont society and for American society."

The Senegal partnership has further expanded Guardmembers' horizons.

"Sometimes Americans, myself included, are quite myopic in our view and already in one year I look at world events through a different lens," Dubie said. "Instead of that American-European lens we're so used to, we're starting to look at it through an American, European and African lens.

"Senegal has a very rich history. I was impressed by their professionalism, also the very large leadership role they have in the African Union. In their region of Africa, they have a very strong leadership role."

On his first trip to Macedonia, Dubie was a major. The experience motivated him to study the country more closely and write an Air War College thesis on Macedonia.

"I'm just one example of how many other thousands of people that have been involved in the State Partnership Program that got the fire lit under him to learn more about a region of the world," Dubie said.

Now a senior leader himself, Dubie has watched Macedonian counterparts also ascend.

"The current chief of defense for Macedonia, his first visit to Vermont was to attend the Army Mountain Warfare College, and he was a lieutenant colonel," Dubie said. "You can't replicate that overnight. It takes years and years."

Now that Vermont is partnered with Senegal, the same kinds of relationships will develop, he said - relationships that all the SPP states and partner nations experience.

"Some of the captains that we brought on the first Senegal trip some day will be generals on our side, and they will have interacted with captains on the Senegal side that will [be generals]," he said. "That's where the real power of this is."