McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- About 100 Soldiers and Airmen from the National Guard Bureau and the 54 states and territories spent this week in East Tennessee at the Air National Guard's training and Education Center, learning and networking on the nation's State Partnership Program.

The workshop prepares partnership managers -- usually assigned at a state joint force headquarters -- to run effective partnerships and alliances with 83 nations worldwide. NGB offers it once a year and has for the last 25 years of SPP history.

In its primary purpose: SPP managers have a lot to know and keep updated. Roughly 75 percent of the workshop concentrates on running and implementing SPP through the nation's unified combatant commands.

"The value of this program and understanding its strategic application is incredible," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Chris Lawson, National Guard Bureau vice director, Strategy, Plans, Policy, and International Affairs, said in his opening remarks. "Really; you are doing something that is changing the world."

The general welcomed the group and spoke on the importance of SPP's mutually beneficial means to assure allies, deter adversaries, compete globally and win.

I want you to think about this: that when you come here for this meeting, and you go, 'Well, I represent a relationship, or organization, or bilateral partnership.' You are much bigger than that," General Lawson said.

SPP is the result of the National Guard's states and territories forming security relationships, beginning in Europe following the end of the Cold War, which grew to today's mutually beneficial alliances with 43 percent of the world's nations, now located in all United States combat commands. Some states host partnerships with two countries.

SPP's state-to-nation engagement is extensive and can involve a range of high-level cooperation with civilian and military leaders, to shared training and exercises, friendship building and mutual interests in operations and events.

"Make the most out of this; networking, putting names to faces because ... this is a complex, complicated business," U.S. Army Col. Craig Hummer, National Guard Bureau division chief for International Affairs, said to the group during his introductions.

Explaining the need for the training, Hummer said that making SPP run under the Department of Defense and with the states' adjutants generals' support includes more than 270 joint service members nationally, to include 25 fulltime staff and contractors assigned to NGB in Arlington, Virginia. The program continues to grow, at a rate of two new partnerships each year, after more than a quarter-century of development.

"The program remains a top priority for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau," Hummer said.

A National Guard education center has never hosted the workshop before this year.