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Arkansas National Guard supports Guatemala in State Partnership Program

Airman support State Partnership Program

An Arkansas Air National Guard Airman conducts a health and wellness check during the screening process for a medical readiness training exercise, Dec. 6, 2018, in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. The MEDRETE was coordinated under the National Guard's State Partnership Program and organized with the cooperation of the Arkansas National Guard and the Guatemalan military. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jessica Condit)

Airman support State Partnership Program

Lt. Col Benjamin Hall, a 188th Medical Group dentist, inserts a local anesthetic into a patient's mouth during the Arkansas Air National Guard's medical readiness training exercise, Dec. 6, 2018, in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. Hall, with the assistance of Sindy Larin, a civilian dentist who grew up in Guatemala, treated patients and handed out more than 4,000 toothbrushes to patients. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jessica Condit)

Airman support State Partnership Program

Maj. Gen. Mark Berry, the Arkansas National Guard adjutant general, meets with medical personnel during the Arkansas Air National Guard's medical readiness training exercise, Dec. 6, 2018, in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. Berry, along with other leadership in the Arkansas National Guard, visited with Airmen throughout each section of the MEDRETE to see first-hand the positive impact they had on the community. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jessica Condit)

Airman support State Partnership Program

Lt. Col. Katherine Travis, a 189th Medical Group clinical nurse specialist, prepares prescriptions during the State Partnership Program's medical readiness training exercise, Dec. 6, 2018, in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. More than $15,000 in medication was prescribed and distributed to the local community during the MEDRETE. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jessica Condit)

Airman support State Partnership Program

Senior Airman Dane Clark, a 188th Medical Group medical technician, checks the temperature of a patient during the recent medical readiness training exercise, Dec. 6, 2018, in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. The MEDRETE was coordinated under the National Guard's State Partnership Program and consisted of more than 30 Arkansas Air National Guard medical personnel who treated patients in the local area. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jessica Condit)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The Arkansas National Guard and the Central American country of Guatemala have worked closely for the last 16 years as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. Whether at home or visiting our partner country, the Airmen and Soldiers of the Arkansas National Guard work hard to ensure relations between the two countries remains one of positivity and resourcefulness. 

According to the National Guard official website, the National Guard’s State Partnership Program was established in 1993 with partnerships between the National Guard of designated U.S. States and newly independent Eastern European countries, in coordination with U.S. European Command. The State Partnership Program currently includes 75 partnerships with 81 nations all over the world. The SPP is a Department of Defense joint security cooperation program administered by the National Guard in support of the combatant commander’s security cooperation objectives and ambassador’s integrated country strategies. It matches a state’s National Guard with a partner country promoting enduring, mutually beneficial security relationships with allies and friendly nations. 

More than 30 Airmen from the 189th and 188th Medical Groups packed bandages, toothbrushes, vitamins and other medical supplies to support a medical readiness training exercise in the town on Retalhuleu, Guatemala under the DoD’s State Partnership Program. The Airmen spent approximately one week treating patients and working closely with Guatemalan Air Force and Army personnel to maximize their information exchanges and branching their growth within their partner nation. 

“The event had a tremendous and positive impact on relationships with Guatemala,” said Lt. Col. Paul Sherman, the 189th MDG deputy commander. “The Guatemalan military has very little money. By coordinating the event, Guatemalan military forces gained good faith with the local population. In turn, the relationship between the Guatemalan military and the U.S. military as well as the relationship with their military in the community is strengthened.” 

The Airmen also used the opportunity to create best practices and ensure the well-being of the community they were supporting. During the MEDRETE, the Airmen spent approximately nine hours each day balancing the needs of the many with the supplies on hand. Nearly 2,300 pounds of medical supplies including $15,000 worth of medication, $20,000 in prescription eyewear, and 4,000 toothbrushes were sent to Guatemala on a C-130H along with the Airmen who responded to the call. 

“This experience made me feel human,” Senior Airman Dane Clark, a 188th Medical Group aerospace medical technician stated. “There is the language barrier here but laughter and a smile are universal. This is so enlightening for me and makes me realize what I’ve taken for granted and helps me learn to appreciate things more.”

From the beginning of the State Partnership Program to now, the Arkansas National Guard completed MEDRETE’s, learning exchanges, contingency training and assisted in other humanitarian exchanges, to include training Guatemalan military medical personnel at home station. The members of the Arkansas National Guard work diligently to ensure the well-being of the partner nation and practice pristine interoperability during each encounter.
For more information on the National Guard’s State Partnership Program in Arkansas and other states and territories of the United States and other programs the DoD manages, please visit www.nationalguard.mil.