DOORNKLOOF, GAUTENG PROVINCE, South Africa (Sept. 2, 2009) -- Members of the New York National Guard will travel to Doornkloof, Gauteng Province, South Africa, Sept. 7-13 to relate their experiences with the National Guard, in combat and at home, to peers from the South African National Defense Reserve Forces.

The South African National Defense Force Reserve Forces Symposium in Doornkloof from Sept. 9-11 will address the impact of multiple reserve force mobilizations and their effects on the military forces of South Africa.

The multinational event is part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program between New York State and the Republic of South Africa.

Participating from New York will be Col. Glenn Marchi, the New York National Guard plans officer; Chaplain (Col.) Eric Olsen, the New York National Guard chaplain; Lt. Col. Frantz Michel, commander of the 272d Military Police Liaison Detachment; Command Chief Master Sgt. Hardy Pierce, the senior enlisted servicemember for the New York Air National Guard and Maj. Patrick Chaisson, the State Partnership Program coordinator for the New York National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters.

Marchi, Olsen, Michel and Chaisson are all Iraq War veterans with the New York Army National Guard.

"This training came about as an invitation from the South African Ministry of Defense," Chaisson said.

"I think they recognize our experience as a nation that operationalized its reserve components, and see the New York National Guard as a model for their own reserve force in terms of systems and procedures designed to address the unique challenges of reserve-force deployments (soldier/family/employer).

Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Guard was considered a strategic reserve of the nation's armed forces which would only be called up in national conflict and responded to domestic emergencies on a more regular basis, supporting local authorities during natural disasters or other crisis.

Since then, the National Guard and other American reserve forces have been fully integrated and are mobilized on a regular basis as part of the military's force structure for deployments overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, the members of the National Guard have remained an integral part of the local response capability of the states, providing Soldiers and airmen in support of local civil authorities during natural disasters or emergencies.

The reserve forces symposium will address the strategic employment of South African reserve forces, employer relations, legal rights of reservists, military training needs, education requirements and other topical subjects common to the current operating environment for members of the New York National Guard.

The symposium will also hear from the Honorable South African National Defense Forces Minister of Defense, Ms. (Dr.) Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu.

In 1990, Sisulu worked as Personal Assistant to the current South African President, Mr Jacob Zuma. The positions she has held include Chief Administrator for the African National Congress at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) in 1991, Administrator of Intelligence, ANC Department of intelligence and Security in 1992, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence since 1995 to 1996.

In 1996, she was appointed Deputy Minister of Home Affairs until 2001, after which she was appointed Minister for Intelligence Services until 2004. It was after the second National democratic elections that she became Minister of Housing. A portfolio she held until her appointment as Minister of Defense and Military Veterans in May of 2009.

The conference interaction for the New York Soldiers and Airmen is tied to a series of reserve-force mobilization experience events during which South Africa will send company and battalion leaders to U.S. mobilization sites to observe New York Army National Guard Soldiers preparing for deployment.

Other events include South African Reserve Force Noncommissioned Officers traveling to the New York Sept. 19-20 to participate in the New York National Guard's senior enlisted conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The National Guard State Partnership Program was established in 1993 in response to the radically changed political-military situation following the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The program's goals reflect an evolving international affairs mission for the National Guard, to promote security cooperation in support of Homeland Defense and Civil Support Missions.

Today, 43 US states, two territories, and the District of Columbia are partnered with 51 countries around the world. The New York State partnership with South Africa is one of the leading engagements in sub-Sahara Africa for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). In August of this year, Liberia requested a National Guard state partner and Kenya is expected to follow with a partner state in 2010.

Partnerships are created through discussions among countries, ministers of defense, the U.S. ambassador, regional combatant commanders, adjutants general, governors and the chief of the National Guard Bureau, which administers the SPP.

The goal of the trip for the New York Soldiers and Airman is to "increase understanding of our South African partners' challenges in operationalizing their reserve force," Chaisson said, "as well as increased opportunities to share experiences for future cooperative events."