North Dakota Guard says partnership critical to Ghana
May 13, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. (May 13, 2009) - It is critical that the leaders of Ghana recognize the importance of the National Guard's State Partnership Program and that it continues in the west African country, a senior Guard official told reporters today.
"We want to do everything that we can to continue the partnership," said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, the adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, which has had a partnership with Ghana since 2004.
Sprynczynatyk, who is in Ghana with seven other members of the North Dakota Guard this week, is taking the opportunity to meet the country's new leadership. A new president was elected in January, and new senior leadership has been appointed to the top positions in the military.
"I had a chance to meet with the four senior leaders (of the armed forces) with the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and talk about our state partnership program, what we have done in the past and what we may want to do in the future," he said.
During this year's visit, the group will discuss program accomplishments, future objectives, increased cooperation and contact between members of the Ghana Ministry of Defense and the North Dakota Guard.
Over the last five years, North Dakota and Ghana have hosted about 70 events, sharing experience and training opportunities.
Sprynczynatyk said he believes Ghana's new administration looks favorably on the program. "They are very much appreciative," he said.
Another mission on this year's trip is a Family Support Activities Forum, which includes Rob Keller, the director of service member and family support for the North Dakota Guard; Connie Sprynczynatyk, a North Dakota Guard Family Executive Council member; and Spc. Tonya Sigl, the North Dakota Guard's state youth coordinator.
The North Dakota contingent will familiarize members of the Ghana armed forces with U.S. procedures for preparing families of servicemembers for deployments. The Ghana armed forces sustain a high-level deployment cycle as they support U.N. peace-keeping operations. They have recognized a need to build family support capabilities.
"We have had the opportunity to progress our program within North Dakota, and we are here to share that information with the Ghanans," Keller said. "We are also here to see firsthand the family programs support that the Ghanan armed forces are providing to their servicemembers."
Keller said his team has learned a lot about the family programs currently in place in Ghana, and "we found that we have the same likes, dislikes and similar situations."
The third coinciding SPP mission is a public affairs workshop, which will familiarize the Ghana armed forces' Northern Command and their partner agencies with U.S. procedures for reporting military events to the general public.
Donnell Preskey, a reporter with KXMB-TV in Bismarck, N.D., and Sgt. Amy Wieser Willson, the North Dakota Guard's deputy public information officer, will lead the workshop that will detail civilian and military media operations.
During his visit last year, Sprynczynatyk said nearly 22 Guard members took part in a larger medical exercise, and he had an opportunity to visit villages where military personnel provided medical assistance.
"We were able to aid them in many ways, whether it was helping to fix their teeth, providing eye glasses or in illness or healing to diagnosis," he said. "There's no question in my mind that we made a difference in the lives of many people last year during that medical exercise."
The State Partnership Program aligns states with partner countries to encourage the development of economic, political and military ties. Building these relationships helps Guard members learn to interact within cultures with which they are unfamiliar, an increasingly important skill, while also bringing expertise and knowledge to a country anxious to prosper.
(Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves with the National Guard Bureau.)