COLUMBIA, South Carolina - A team of legal advisors from the Colombian Army met with South Carolina Army National Guard leadership and Judge Advocate General's to discuss the transformation of the Colombian Military Justice systems August 27-31, 2018.

The Colombian Army and the South Carolina National Guard have collaborated through the State Partnership Program (SPP) since 2012. Through the SPP, National Guard and partner countries conduct engagements in support of defense security goals in cooperative, mutually beneficial relationships.

This particular engagement and exchange of information was intended to give military legal advisors and lawyers from the Colombian Army's strategic planning department the opportunity to observe civilian and military judicial systems in the United States. During their 5-day trip, the team visited the University of South Carolina's School of Law, met Supreme Court judges with the Court of Appeals, went to the United States District Court to observe a trial by a U.S. Magistrate Judge and met with South Carolina's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr.

"It's an honor to host our Colombian partners here in South Carolina," said Livingston to Colonel Fransy Ayala, the Director of Planning and Legal Policies for the National Army of Colombia during the meeting. "It's truly been incredible to observe the military transformation and peace process as it has evolved. Every person in Colombia has been touched personally by the internal transformation and it's amazing how gracefully you've accepted former combatants into your country."

"One goal of the visit was to identify some of Colombia's current legal reform efforts that South Carolina may be able to support," said Maj. Matt Pinckney, Subject Matter Coordinator for the SPP Legal Team. "Our guests were particularly interested in our recent efforts with some of their colleagues to provide a legal foundation for a reserve component similar to the National Guard's. They were also interested in the unique talents and continuity of personnel that the SPP legal team offers."

The State Partnership Program between the Republic of Colombia and the South Carolina National Guard has been a model of an efficient international relationship for the past six years that directly aligns with the 2018 National Defense Strategy. During the National Guard Association of the United States Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, in August, Secretary of Defense, James N. Mattis, stressed the importance of strengthening alliances with our current partners and allies, while working to create new partnerships and allies.

"With our Colombia partners, they are one of our most capable, and certainly most reliable partners, both in Latin America, and even in the world in many ways," said Mattis after his most recent trip to Colombia on August 17, 2018. "And we are working with them. Colombia, for its part, has built very capable police and military forces that set the regional standard for operational effectiveness and for respect for human rights."

"The visit was an absolute success," said Pinckney. "Immediately upon their return to Bogotá, the delegation reached-out and invited us to discuss specific plans during our follow-on visit to Bogotá that will begin on September 16, 2018."