Eucom's State Partnership Program Becomes Global Model
By Donna Miles
STUTTGART, Germany, May 16, 2012 - A program started almost two decades ago to support former Soviet bloc militaries following the Cold War has proven to be a U.S. model for building long-standing military-to-military and civil-military relationships around the world.
The concept was simple: establish a long-term partnership between a state National Guard and a country in Eastern Europe to help build capabilities within its military.
Sparking the program was a request from the Latvian government for help in developing a military based on the National Guard's citizen-soldier model. Army Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time and Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then Eucom's commander, embraced the concept as a way to build partnerships with non-NATO countries in the region as they established democracy and market economies.
Flash forward 19 years and the program has exceeded the originators' wildest visions.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the Eucom commander and supreme allied commander for Europe, sang the praises of the program in recent testimony before Congress, calling it a huge force multiplier that extends a positive U.S. presence throughout the theater.
"I think the State Partnership Program, dollar for dollar, may be one of the most efficient and effective programs that we have at our disposal as combatant commanders," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
In addition to his experience with programs in the European theater, Stavridis reflected on his previous command role at U.S. Southern Command, with the Defense Department's second-largest State Partnership Program.
"I've seen about 40 to 45 of these over the last six years, and the bang for the buck is terrific," he said. "Because in the end, we can do all kinds of messaging and strategic communication, but personal contact trumps everything. And when we put fine young American Guardsmen and women in and around their partners, the return on investment, especially over time, is very powerful."
The program will become increasingly important to Eucom's theater engagement as the United States draws down its permanently based forces in Europe and grapples with budgetary constraints, Stavridis told the panel.
"The State Partnership has been a real windfall for the combatant commands," agreed Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, Eucom's deputy director for plans, policy and strategy. "It brings a lot of specific, required skill sets that can come in short, one- to-two-week durations, provide the necessary engagement with our partner nations without significant expense to U.S. European Command."
Montgomery noted the contributions participants make in areas ranging from non-commissioned officer and junior officer development to small-unit tactics, civil-military relations, emergency preparedness and disaster response.
The Guard's experience in disaster preparedness and civil-military relations at home responding to everything from hurricanes to snow emergencies to tornadoes makes its members particularly suited to the mission, he said.
"They bring a wealth of experience that we don't necessarily always have here in Eucom," he said. "So this is a win-win for everyone involved."
The Alabama National Guard, which became one of the first states to participate in the program, has witnessed the fruits of its 19-year relationship with the Romanian military. Army Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, the Alabama Adjutant General, said his soldiers and airmen have taught the Romanians skills acquired during combat deployments and as well as those learned by responding to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters at home. Smith noted that on one day in April 2011, the state suffered 58 tornadoes, requiring him to activate 3,000 National Guardsmen to assist in response efforts.
This has given the Alabama Guard solid experience to share with the Romanian military, Smith said, including its processes for providing defense support to civilian authorities and the courses-of-action development process the military uses to present commanders with decision-making options.
The two countries' special operators, military police, infantry and logistics elements work together through the program. During Smith's most recent visit to Romania in March, his troops advised their Romanian counterparts as they establish a training area modeled in part after Fort McClellan, Ala.
In addition, F-16 fighter jet crews from the Alabama Air Guard's 187th Fighter Wing share tactics and procedures and logistical know-how with the Romanian air force's Mig-21 crews, Smith said.
But beyond military skills, Smith said the Guardsmen bring a spirit of friendship to the mission, building bonds that simply aren't possible among active-duty forces who regularly rotate between assignments.
"It's all about relationships," he said. "As National Guard members get on the ground and start working with the Romanians, they develop life-long relationships. And people can get things done a lot better if they know and trust each other."
Those relationships have paid off in Afghanistan, he said, where 1,750 Romanians are operating directly alongside deployed Alabama National Guard forces.
Alabama Guardsmen with special operations and infantry specialties traveled to Romania to help their partners get ready to go to war and to validate their training. "Now they are operating together, using the capabilities that we have worked with them to help build over the last 19 years through the State Partnership Program," Smith said.
Army Col. Ted Martinell, director of the State Partnership Program for Eucom, said the program will remain critical to reinforcing lessons learned in the combat theater and taking partnerships to the next level. "As Afghanistan draws down and we move into the future, one of the things this [program] is going to do is help maintain the strategic partnerships," he said.
Those partnerships are vital elements of the new defense strategic guidance that points the way to a smaller, leaner and more agile force prepared to confront future challenges, Martinell said. "It's leveraging everything we have out there to support smart defense."
Montgomery called the program a template for this new fiscal environment. "This is a wonderful opportunity to leverage existing forces our state Guard units and continue to give them interesting and meaningful missions here in Europe," he said.