SKOPJE, North Macedonia – A Vermont National Guard delegation led by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Knight, adjutant general, visited North Macedonia as part of the State Partnership Program.
After almost 30 years of partnership, Vermont and North Macedonia continue to build strong bonds and learn from one another through military, government and civilian interactions.
The partnership between Vermont and North Macedonia started in 1993 and is one of the longest in the State Partnership Program administered by the National Guard Bureau. Vermont leaders have supported and witnessed North Macedonia become the most recent country to join NATO.
The delegation from Vermont included Knight; Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Edwards, Vermont senior enlisted advisor; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jim Woodworth, Vermont command chief; Lt. Col. Hazel Kreider, Vermont National Guard SPP director; Lt. Col. Chris Ruggerio, executive officer to the adjutant general; and Maj. Nathan Fry, bilateral affairs officer to North Macedonia.
"What impresses me most is the work ethic and focus I have witnessed from our partners from North Macedonia in the past several years," said Knight. "The degree of participation and scope of multinational exercises this early in North Macedonia's NATO membership is indicative of the positive direction we get to be a part of."
The delegation received updates on projects, attended ceremonies and meetings and toured military and civilian installations.
At an Army Day celebration Aug. 18, Knight presented Radmila Shekerinska, defense minister of North Macedonia, with the Vermont Distinguished Service Medal.
Army Day commemorates the creation of the Mirče Acev Battalion in 1943. The battalion laid the foundation for Macedonia's People's Liberation Army that fought against the Axis forces during WWII.
Following the Army Day celebrations, Knight met with Bekim Maksuti, Protection and Rescue Directorate director, to discuss domestic response operations. As part of the civilian-to-civilian aspect of the SPP, Vermont has sent representatives from the state's Emergency Management Team and others to Macedonia to exchange best practices for disaster relief.
"The U.S. ambassador and country team, deputy chief of mission, U.S. European Command, and the 4th Security Forces Advisory Brigade, and many other agencies are significant in this cooperation," said Knight. "Our partnership is a part of the continuity of effort in successfully achieving those goals."
The Vermont delegation met with general staff, several ministers, directors and Stevo Pendarovski, the president of North Macedonia.
The delegation viewed renovations at the Public Health Institution, Health Center Probishtip, that the United States funded through the U.S. European Command. In addition, the United States provided North Macedonia with $465,000 in medical equipment for COVID-19 response efforts.
After exchanging gifts at the health center, the delegation visited the North Macedonia Army base in Shtip and saw a static display of some of the equipment used by the Army of North Macedonia.
Knight met with Brig. Gen. Hadji Janev at the Krivolak Training Area to discuss possible joint training at the range.
Knight said North Macedonia remains "incredibly committed" to what he considers one of the strongest and busiest partnerships in the SPP.
"I certainly look forward to continuing our partnership for another 28 years," Knight said.