LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska Army National Guard Maj. Jessica Pan is the Bilateral Affairs Officer of the Year for 2023, U.S. Africa Command announced.
Bilateral affairs officers reside in a country and are responsible for the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program there. The Nebraska National Guard and Rwanda Defence Force formalized their partnership Dec. 12, 2019. Since then, the two have conducted multiple engineering, medical and leadership development engagements in Rwanda and Nebraska.
As the bilateral affairs officer, Pan works with the Office of Defense Cooperation and the U.S. ambassador’s country team, providing partner country information on relevant State Partnership Program activities. The bilateral affairs officer is strictly a U.S. representative.
Pan, who has served in the Army National Guard for two decades, said it is an honor to be recognized for her achievements during her two-year assignment to Rwanda.
“Although this is an individual award, receiving it is a testament to the hard work of the Embassy DOD team, Nebraska State Partnership Program office and the Soldiers and Airmen of the Nebraska National Guard who conduct engagements with the partner,” Pan said.
According to her nomination, Pan served as the acting Office of Defense Cooperation chief for multiple periods throughout her tenure as the bilateral affairs officer, ensuring that programming outside her direct scope was complete.
“Pan is an innovative officer who seeks different ways to maximize the State Partnership Program, looking at building enduring relationships between Rwanda and the state of Nebraska that go beyond just a military-to-military relationship,” her nomination letter read. “She worked diligently to develop a humanitarian assistance plan that involved the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the Rwanda Ministry of Emergency Management; she has also investigated other opportunities for the state of Nebraska to partner with Rwanda to build relations for this still young partnership.”
The nomination described Pan as an exemplary team player and professional. The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence and Nebraska’s Senior Enlisted Advisors praised her for maintaining the Rwanda Defence Forces NCO development. She also served as lead planner for multiple medical readiness exercises, improving the skills of medical practitioners in the Nebraska National Guard and the Rwanda Defence Force, who cared for thousands of patients.
Pan also dedicated numerous off-duty hours to learning Kinyarwanda, the local language, to facilitate communication and understanding with her Rwandan counterparts.
“Jessica is a phenomenal officer who both manages programs and supervises personnel with ease,” said Lt. Col. Peter Kalogiros, Defense Attaché, United States Embassy Kigali, Rwanda. “Given her management of the portfolio … the command agreed she was more than worthy of the recognition, and shows how much we all value the Nebraska relationship as the true bilateral linchpin.”
Pan said she looks forward to finishing her assignment in Rwanda and bringing the knowledge she’s gained back to Nebraska.
“I also look forward to seeing how the Nebraska and Rwanda partnership will grow and develop in the coming years,” she said.