VICENZA, Italy -- A novel and flexible program managed by the National Guard is assisting U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Africa to create and maintain relationships with African partner nations.Known as the State Partnership Program, 54 states and territories are matched with countries around the globe to support U.S. national interests and security cooperation goals. National Guard organizations from eight states are matched with African partner nations. For example the North Dakota National Guard is partnered with Ghana Armed Forces and the California Guard is paired with Nigeria.In January, USARAF Commander Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahue II attended an SPP Conference for Africa in Warren, Mich. More than 40 representatives from eight states and several commands such as AFRICOM, USARAF and National Guard Bureau attended the conference."The SPP conference was designed to generate dialogue and collaboration between USARAF and state partners, with a goal of synchronizing our efforts in support of developing our African army partners," Donahue said.Working with long and short term goals in mind, the program is divided by regional area of responsibilities and linked to combatant commands known as COCOMs, and include National Guard personnel from both Army and Air Force. AFRICOM is connected to eight National Guard states: California, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming.According to California National Guard State Partnership Director, Capt. Clayton Smith, the California Air National Guard is currently working with the Nigerian Air Force to improve their C-130 fleet."Working with the Nigerian Air Force is an on-going component of the California SPP," Smith said. "We have been working alongside U.S. Air Force Europe and U.S. Air Force Africa in hosting a variety of familiarization visits to demonstrate to the Nigerians typical USAF C-130 flying and maintenance operations focusing specifically on overall flying operations, airframe/engine maintenance and airframe corrosion control operations," he said.In the recent past, SPP states integrated with U.S. Army Africa in exercises and activities with African partner nations to include leadership and NCO development, field training and command post exercises."The State Partnership Program has the advantage of creating relationships that endure for many years, and serve as a model of success for sharing expertise, knowledge, skill sets and developing lasting relationship on the continent of Africa," Donahue said. "Additionally, the states can readily access a wide variety of skills and specialties, given the size and composition of states' National Guard forces and the civilian skills that National Guard personnel bring to the table," he said.Beginning in March, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas, will support AFRICOM's security cooperation requirements. SPP states and USARAF will develop a series of linked activities that build a fielded and sustainable capability in our partner army."The Army's Vision for Regionally Aligned Forces emphasizes providing culturally attuned and globally minded Soldiers who are capable of working with foreign forces to share their knowledge and expertise toward the long-term goal of developing enduring relationship and strengthening security cooperation between the United States and partner nation land forces," Donahue said. "The RAF can learn what works from the SPP states," he said.SPP can readily access a wide array of skills and specialties, given the size and composition of states' National Guard forces and the civilian skills that National Guard personnel can also bring to the table"The RAF brigade is slated for just about 120 activities in 34 countries in Africa in a six month period. "The RAF brigade won't be able to conduct all of U.S. Army Africa's planned activities, and we will continue to count on the support from the National Guard to fulfill the majority our missions," he said.The USARAF commander believes SPPs are and will continue to have positive influence on the people of the African continent."With the State Partnership Program, we are able to create, improve and maintain important relationships with our African partners with programs that both promote professionalism and make a difference," Donahue said.