STUTTGART, Germany — As states take on more than one country in the National Guard State Partnership Program, an amazing thing is happening: The old partner is offering to share its experiences with the new partner.
For example, Vermont has worked with Macedonia since 1995. Last year, Vermont added a new partner, Senegal, one of seven partnership countries in U.S. Africa Command.
"In our case, the trilateral relationship is very positive and will have a great impact on all three of the partners," said Maj. Gen. Michael D. Dubie, the adjutant general of Vermont.
And although a formal agreement hasn't been reached between Macedonia and Senegal, both have expressed an interest in the idea.
"It shows me the vibrancy and efficacy of why the program started in the first place," said Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "I can only see combatant commanders' desire for programs like this increasing."
Ohio is another state bringing together its two partnership countries, Hungary and Serbia, which joined the program in 1993 and 2007, respectively.
"This year, we will do 35 exchanges [with both countries]," said Maj. Gen. Gregory L. Wayt, the adjutant general of Ohio. "A month doesn't go by that either we're in Europe or they're in Ohio training with us."
Hungary is a stalwart member of NATO, and Serbia is still working toward that goal, so "Serbia looks toward Hungary for some lessons learned, and we all learn together," Wayt said.
"These are all examples of the synergy and ripple effect that you get from a partnership," said Dr. John Finney, the international security affairs advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
The idea for a trilateral partnership between Vermont's partners was first suggested by Gillian A Milovanovic, a former U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, who has spent a lot of time on the African continent.
"She knew there would be a lot that the three of us could share together," Dubie said. "Some of her enthusiasm early on is what got us enthused about getting the three of us together."
Both countries are very similar in the professionalism of their NCO corps and their needs, including logistical support.
"NCO development is a high priority," Dubie said. "Some of these things we take for granted in our country. Our NCO professionals are second-to-none in the world. These senior officers are very aware that they need to develop their NCO corps to be like the American NCO corps."
Both countries have deployed extensively, so some of the initial meetings together were discussions about deployment issues, including family support.
"Both Senegal and Macedonia want to find out how we do our social networking with families during deployments, because it's been a problem for them," Dubie said. "They don't have a support system when people deploy.
"You would think it would be more of the warfighter stuff that they would want, but it's not. It's some of those softer skills that we have that they have been very interested in ... in addition to some of those traditional warfighting skills."
As the mature partner, Macedonia gets to act as a "security exporter" to Senegal.
"They are very proud that they are actually attempting to share some of their knowledge and expertise," Dubie said. "That's been clear from everyone on the Macedonia side. They feel very validated that they can go somewhere else in the world and maybe assist a third country."
All of these partnerships help Americans expand their world view. "Sometimes Americans, myself included, are quite myopic in our world view," Dubie said.
"And already in one year, I look at world affairs through a different lens, because instead of the American and European lens that we are used to, we are starting to look at it through an American, European and African lens."