COPENHAGEN – On the last leg of a four-country trip to strengthen security cooperation between the National Guard and European partners, the Guard’s senior-most officer talked with Danish Armed Forces leaders about the prospect of deeper engagements between the Guard and the Kingdom of Denmark.
As a founding member of NATO and stalwart U.S. Ally, Denmark is a steady contributor to multinational operations. The Danish Armed Forces are considered a capable military force. So why work with the National Guard?
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, National Guard Bureau chief, outlined the Guard’s ability to deliver a wide range of capabilities.
“The National Guard is 20% of the Joint Force,” Hokanson said. “We have eight divisions in the Army Guard and 90 wings in the Air Guard. Because we are the combat reserve of the Army and the Air Force, we can leverage our training, personnel and equipment to support civil authorities at home during times of crisis.
“We also work with partner nations across the globe through the State Partnership Program to build capacity and compatibility,” he said. “Because many of our Guardsmen serve in the same units over their entire careers, they build lasting relationships with their international counterparts.”
The State Partnership Program is a Defense Department program managed by the Guard Bureau and executed by the states, territories and the District of Columbia. Through the SPP, the Guard is partnered with 100 nations in collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships to support State Department, DOD and combatant command security cooperation objectives.
One practical and strategic advantage the CNGB sees in partnering with Denmark is the ability for Guardsmen to potentially engage with the entire Kingdom of Denmark that also includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
“The Kingdom of Denmark is of strategic importance to NATO and the whole region,” Hokanson said. “It would be extremely beneficial for Guardsmen to train in Greenland and develop the capabilities to operate in the Arctic environment.”
Greenland, the largest island in the world, is a self-governing Danish territory. The Danish Armed Forces are responsible for defending and securing its nearly 840,000 square miles. Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command, headquartered in Nuuk, Greenland, commands the nation’s forces operating there.
The foundations for greater collaboration between the Guard and Danish Armed Forces are already in place.
Last September, the New York National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing trained with Danish counterparts during exercise ARCTIC LIGHT in Greenland.
In November 2023, Army Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, New York’s adjutant general, and Danish Maj. Gen. Søren Andersen, commander of Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command, signed a statement of intent to establish joint training and exchanges in Greenland between the New York Guard and the Joint Arctic Command.
Through this agreement, Denmark and the New York Guard plan to conduct joint training, key leader discussions and exchange observers this year and in 2025.
The New York Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing regularly flies missions to Greenland and Antarctica to resupply U.S. research stations. 109th Airmen operate the only ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft in the DOD.
Andersen agreed with the CNGB: “It takes expertise and training to deliver operational effects in the Arctic,” he said. He added that the Danish Armed Forces’ focus areas in Greenland include disaster relief, infrastructure protection, support to local authorities, icebreaking and search and rescue.
Last December, Copenhagen and Washington finalized a Defense Cooperation Agreement that allows U.S. service members and military equipment to be based on Danish soil. Northwest Greenland is already home to Pituffik Space Base, formerly Thule Air Base, the DOD’s northernmost installation.
For years, Denmark has actively contributed to NATO’s military defense of the Baltics. Copenhagen is preparing to dispatch a frigate to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian, the U.S.-led, multinational operation to ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. Danish pilots have trained with National Guard pilots and other international Allies in Tucson, Arizona. Ukrainian pilots will soon train in Denmark.
Later this year, Denmark is planning to send F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters to Ukraine to support Ukraine’s continued fight against unprovoked Russian aggression.
General Flemming Lentfer, the Danish Chief of Defense, told Hokanson he sees great opportunities to work with the National Guard in the areas of cyber defense and hybrid threats.
The Guard has cyber units in 42 states that can help civil authorities, if needed.
“I’m looking forward to any opportunity to work together in the future,” Lentfer said.
Hokanson also met with Kasper Høeg-Jensen, Denmark’s deputy permanent secretary for security policy and operations at the Danish Ministry of Defense, where explained that partnering with the Guard can be as much, or as little as the partner nation wants.
“As a Kingdom, we’re always looking to expand our cooperation with the U.S.,” Høeg-Jensen said. “This sounds like something that would be beneficial for all.”
Eric Durr, Jaclyn Lyons and Staff Sgt. Sean Madden, New York National Guard, contributed.