Virginia National Guard Formalizes Partnership with Finland

By Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public AffairsMay 2, 2024

The Virginia National Guard has been selected as the U.S. partner to the nation of Finland for the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced May 2, 2024. The signing ceremony occurred at the Finnish Ministry of Defense in Helsinki.
The Virginia National Guard has been selected as the U.S. partner to the nation of Finland for the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced May 2, 2024. The signing ceremony occurred at the Finnish Ministry of Defense in Helsinki. (Photo Credit: Cotton Puryear) VIEW ORIGINAL

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia National Guard has been selected as the U.S. partner to the nation of Finland for the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced May 2.

The official signing ceremony occurred at the Finnish Ministry of Defense in Helsinki with signing partners Minister of Defence Antti Häkkänen, Maj. Gen. James. W. Ring, the adjutant general of Virginia, and Gen. Janne Jaakkola, commander of the Finnish Defence Forces.

“Now more than ever, it is critically important we build and maintain key strategic relationships to enhance security and provide new avenues for economic development, and I have no doubt the Virginia National Guard’s partnership with Finland will bring greater peace, stability and opportunity,” Youngkin said. “I know making this formal partnership a reality required tremendous effort and energy, and I want to thank our Virginia National Guard and the Finnish Ministry of Defense for their hard work.”

Sasha N. Baker, acting undersecretary of defense for policy, approved the partnership in an April 23 memo.

"Establishing this partnership with Finland is a significant milestone for the Virginia National Guard and underscores commitment to fostering international cooperation," said retired Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. "This collaboration will not only enhance our tactical capabilities but also strengthen the bonds of friendship and mutual understanding between our forces."

The VNG and Finnish Ministry of Defense will focus on combined air operations and interoperability defense. They will collaborate on defense against cyber threats, information and intelligence operations and combined land forces capability, including the deployment of military forces in cold weather environments, military assistance and support for disaster operations and special operations training.

“The foundations of this partnership go back to 2001 when members of the Finnish Defense Forces served with the Virginia National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division during the Stabilization Force 10 rotation in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2001-2002,” said Ring, who was a major and served as the Aviation Task Force operations officer during the rotation. “We formed enduring friendships with our Finnish counterparts, and VNG Soldiers and Airmen have trained with Finnish military personnel on many occasions over the years, resulting in deep professional and personal bonds. I have no doubt our future engagements will result in increased readiness for the VNG and our Finnish counterparts. As military allies and partners, we are stronger together.”

A spokesperson for the U.S Embassy in Helsinki said the State Partnership Program will enhance civil, military and diplomatic cooperation, create mutually beneficial training opportunities, and facilitate the sharing of expertise and best practices. Working together, the VNG and Finnish Defense Forces strengthen regional stability and security.

The agreement reinforces the U.S.-Finland partnership on a range of defense priorities and complements Finland's NATO membership and the U.S.-Finland Defense Cooperation Agreement, and will continue to preserve transatlantic security and meet any challenges the countries might face.

The State Partnership Program began in 1993 with 13 partners. Initially developed to assist countries emerging from the Iron Curtain, the SPP now involves 89 partnerships with 106 nations and the National Guard of every U.S. state and territory.

In addition to Finland, Palau, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sweden and Tanzania are joining the program this year.

Virginia is also partners with Tajikistan. Over 20 years, the partners have had more than 200 exchanges. In just the last year, they have conducted exchanges on communications, infantry tactics, checkpoint security, civil engineering and medical evacuation.

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