BELGRADE, Serbia - The Ohio National Guard and the Serbian Armed Forces celebrated their 16-year partnership in Serbia Sept. 7-10.
Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general, led the Ohio delegation. Events in Belgrade included meetings with Serbia’s president, prime minister and Serbian Armed Forces senior leadership.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić awarded the Order of the Serbian Flag (2nd class) to Harris to mark the relationship between the Ohio National Guard and Serbian Armed Forces that began in 2006 through the Department of Defense State Partnership Program.
The order is awarded for development of international relations between the Republic of Serbia and other countries. Harris said it was a “great honor” to receive the order, which he accepted on behalf of Ohio and the Ohio National Guard.
The spirit of cooperation between Ohio and Serbia was also part of the discussion during the “Day of America in Belgrade” conference at the House of the National Assembly Sept. 8. Harris addressed the conference attendees about the foundation laid by the Ohio and Serbian military partnership.
“By working together, side-by-side, we are creating a safer world,” Harris said. “Our partnership also extends beyond military cooperation, as Serbia and Ohio are facilitating collaboration across the spectrum, from education to economics. You can count on the Ohio National Guard’s consistent engagement. You can count on us to work together for a shared future.”
Among the members of the Ohio delegation were two civilian education representatives who visited schools and met with Serbian education officials. The visit was a follow-up to a memorandum of understanding signed last year by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Higher Education to pledge continued cooperation at the primary, secondary and higher education levels.
At a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, the two sides discussed ways to expand the partnership, including cybersecurity and more opportunities for members of the Serbian Armed Forces to come to the United States to participate in training exercises.
“We continue to focus on critical shared priorities such as cybersecurity, peacekeeping and medical,” Harris said. “We are committed to expanding areas of cooperation and finding new avenues of partnership to promote our shared values.”
The State Partnership Program, managed by the National Guard Bureau, has been building relationships for over 25 years and now includes 85 partnerships with 93 nations around the globe. In addition to Serbia, Ohio has partnered with Hungary since 1993.