COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The Colombian army's top maintenance officer got a first-hand look at the South Carolina Army National Guard's maintenance facilities during a State Partnership Program engagement, March 7-11.

Colombian army Brig. Gen. Alexander Ramirez, and five other maintenance officers, toured the Combined Support Maintenance Shop, the Unit Training Equipment Site at the National Guard's McCrady Training Center as well as maintenance facilities in Darlington and Charleston, getting a look at how the National Guard conducts its maintenance operations. During the exchange, Ramirez and staff spoke to Soldiers who work on equipment every day discussing procedures and programs.

During their visit to South Carolina, the Colombian officers shared their experiences with the Deputy Adjutant General of South Carolina, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Van McCarty, at his office. Ramirez told his hosts, he "accomplished everything he set out to do" during this visit and was thankful for help as they improve their capabilities.

Ramirez said the National Guard and the Colombian army have many parallels including the Guard's Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission which is similar to the Colombian army's internal focus. The Colombian military is beginning to concentrate on civil support after natural disasters.

Ramirez has a background with the State Partnership Program. As a colonel, he hosted the first maintenance Subject Matter Export Exchange in Colombia in 2012. Today he oversees maintenance for the Colombian army.

"The key to our relationship is the ability to work together and share best practices," McCarty said. "Good things are happening because of the army of Colombia."

This engagement continues to integrate U.S. Army South and South Carolina Army National Guard, working together bolstering U.S. Southern Command's efforts in Colombia.

"Within the South Carolina Army National Guard maintenance organization we are building a core group of professionals who know and understand the challenges the Colombian army faces," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David King, State Partnership Program director for the South Carolina National Guard.

In November 2015, the South Carolina National Guard hosted a team of Colombian army engineers to view the Guard's response in the wake of historic flooding in October.

Since its launch in 2012, when the South Carolina National Guard introduced its State Partnership with the Republic of Colombia, South Carolina has focused on establishing long-term relationships where Colombia and South Carolina can promote mutual interests and build lasting capabilities. In the past fiscal year the South Carolina National Guard held 26 engagements with its partner nation, and is one track to surpass that number in 2016.