MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Michelle Tadych had a very important mission to conduct when she was assigned to Nicaragua for three months this summer through the National Guard's State Partnership Program.
Tadych facilitated a personnel transition for the bilateral affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua – a key position that coordinates State Partnership Program activities while integrating fully with the Combatant Command and Embassy Office of Defense Coordinator in the country.
During the transition between bilateral affairs officers, she provided continuity of operations while one arrived and the other out-processed.
Her efforts helped strengthen the partnership between Wisconsin and Nicaragua – a partnership that began in 2003 and includes programs like the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas Inc.
That nonprofit group takes items donated from Wisconsin and distributes them across Nicaragua to learning centers, where they do community outreach and teach skills to help people create stable income for themselves.
"Partnering in these humanitarian aid programs was rewarding, and seeing the difference it makes in communities was astronomical," Tadych said. "For example, many sewing machines were donated and the women were taught how to sew with them. With these simple donations, the women can support themselves and their families. The same goes for beauty supplies and hair cutting."
Political tensions between the United States and Nicaragua resulted in the suspension of direct military-to-military exchanges between U.S. and Nicaraguan troops in 2018 – limiting the Wisconsin National Guard's ability to interact directly. However, the Denton Program continues to function.
The longstanding Denton Program is run by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, allowing donated humanitarian aid to fly on U.S. Air Force assets when space is available. The relief missions provide humanitarian relief to countries in need and mandated training for aircrews.
Tadych participated in the arrival of a Denton flight that brought a donated firetruck and thousands of humanitarian aid packages.
"I think it's an incredible opportunity for us Guardsmen here in Wisconsin to have a hands-on impact on security cooperation and international relations," she said.
"It continuously amazes me that just by showing up and becoming proficient in our jobs, we have the impact to transfer this knowledge to an international setting. Even something that we may see on a day-to-day basis and consider a waste of time may turn out to be incredibly important when this knowledge is transferred to someone else."
The Wisconsin National Guard maintains two partnerships with foreign nations through the Guard's State Partnership Program. In addition to its longstanding partnership with Nicaragua, the Wisconsin National Guard became partners with Papua New Guinea in 2020.
Senior Airman Anya Hanson contributed to this report.