Guard Program is ‘Greatest’ But Little-Known Security Tool

Guard Program is ‘Greatest’ But Little-Known Security Tool

Photo by: Air National Guard/Senior Airman Jonathan W. Padish

The National Guard’s state partnership program is “the greatest national security tool that most people have never heard of,” said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th National Guard Bureau chief.

Speaking at a forum during AUSA Now, the virtual annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, Hokanson said the program provides durable ties between the U.S. and other nations that is unmatched by anyone else. It also provides exchanges with a variety of purposes, from disaster planning to military vehicle maintenance to leadership training, he said.

“Freedom and democracy are American values, but we cannot uphold them alone,” Hokanson said.

Nations with no other diplomatic relationships with the U.S. sometimes have partnerships with states, Hokanson said. An example is the relationship between Wisconsin and Nicaragua. “These are small actions with big impact,” he said. “It sets the U.S. apart as an ally.”

There are about 18,000 National Guard members currently deployed overseas as part of the 27-year-old state partnership program, he said. There are 54 states or territories involved in 82 nation partnerships and seven multination partnerships.

Hokanson, who became the National Guard Bureau chief in August, presented videos featuring Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, New York and Oregon military leaders, who spoke about their state partnership programs.

The National Guard is a unique force, he said, with operational overseas missions while always remaining ready to serve in communities at home.