WASHINGTON, D.C. - Remembrance, reform, and unity were reflected upon once again as the Bosnia-Herzegovina embassy hosted the 14th annual Armed Forces Day celebration Dec. 5 in the District of Columbia.
Each year, the celebration recognizes the 2005 unification of the Bosniak-Croat Army of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serbs' Army of Republika Srpska into one entity -- the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
This year, the BiH ambassador, Bojan Vujic, and Col. Zoran Batarilo, BiH defense attaché, welcomed U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Laura Cooper and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, adjutant general for Maryland, to celebrate the unification. The union symbolizes what many say is significant reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina as it continues moving forward progressively with a collective military force.
While reflecting on the national history, Batarilo said that as a post-conflict country, many reforms and changes in various areas of political, economic, and social life occurred. However, the AFBiH reform is a successful example.
"Today, the AFBiH is well recognized as a responsible and reliable partner in international peacekeeping missions," said Batarilo. "The AFBiH is participating in the United Nations, European Union and NATO-led peacekeeping operations and, through those engagements, contribute to the collective security system."
Bartarilo also reflected closely on the relationship between the AFBiH and Maryland National Guard through the State Partnership Program.
"The [SPP] cooperation between the MDNG and AFBiH has further strengthened our interoperability and compatibility with partner countries," expressed Bartarilo."
Bartarilo also emphasized the fact that the SPP cooperation is a sign of a good partnership between BiH and the U.S.
The SPP pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Originating in 1993, the program now has 75 partnerships with 81 countries. The AFBiH and MDNG began their SPP ties in 2003 and continue to strengthen the partnership.
Gowen also reflected on the importance of building relationships and how far the AFBiH has come over the nearly 16 years of the partnership.
"Through countless collaborations, exercises, and actual deployments, the Maryland National Guard has proudly served alongside the armed forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Gowen. "It's with great pride and distinction that today we celebrate our partnerships together once again as brothers and sisters striving to accomplish common goals and, ultimately, advising, and assisting one another to be better collectively."