DENVER – Following a busy year with engagements in Europe, South America and stateside, the Pennsylvania-Lithuania and New York-Brazil partnerships were named the Department of Defense National Guard State Partnership Program partnerships of the year for 2022.
The winners were announced by National Guard officials last week at the annual SPP Conference, attended by Guard leaders, bilateral affairs officers and foreign partner delegates April 17-21.
The award criteria included key leader and subject matter expert engagements, the program’s capacity to include “whole of government” events, academic exchanges and the inclusion of Women, Peace and Security principles.
Lithuania and Pennsylvania, one of the original SPP partnerships established in 1993, have conducted over 800 security cooperation engagements in the past 30 years. While the Brazil-New York pairing is more recent, established in 2019, it has included more than 20 events a year with space and cyber priority capabilities.
Leaders from both countries and Guard leadership from Pennsylvania and New York accepted the award.
The State Partnership Program Director of the Year honor was awarded to Army Lt. Col. Christopher Markesino of the Oregon National Guard, paired with Vietnam and Bangladesh. The SPPD plans, manages and coordinates all approved SPP activities, including logistics, resources and budget while working with U.S. government agencies and embassy country teams.
The inaugural Bilateral Affairs Officer of the Year award was given to Army Capt. Omar Rosario of the Puerto Rico Guard for his work with the Dominican Republic.
Each partnership includes a BAO —a Guardsman from that partnership’s state or territory who works in the partner nation and reports directly to the security cooperation office. Bilateral affairs officers ensure in-country events are coordinated, managed and executed alongside their partner nation counterparts.
Army Maj. Gen. William Zana, director of Strategic Plans, Policy and International Affairs for the National Guard Bureau, thanked the awardees for their “tremendous efforts and work over the past year.”
The State Partnership Program began 30 years ago with 13 partners and has grown to 100 partner nations. The Department of Defense program is administered by the National Guard Bureau and guided by the State Department’s foreign policy goals. It is executed by the adjutants general in support of the combatant commanders, the U.S. Chief of Mission security cooperation objectives and the DOD’s strategic objectives.