COLUMBIA, South Carolina – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Colombian Vice Minister of Defense Jorge Enrique Bedoya signed a partnership proclamation on Monday formally establishing a bilateral relationship between South Carolina and the Republic of Colombia in the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
The signing and announcement were made in a ceremony at the South Carolina statehouse. Visitors from Colombia, the Colombian Embassy in Washington, the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, U.S. Southern Command, the National Guard Bureau and the South Carolina National Guard were on hand to witness the occasion.
The National Guard’s State Partnership Program links U.S. states with partner countries to support the goals of the geographic combatant commander and the U.S. ambassador. The program promotes national security objectives, country and regional stability, partner nation capacity, and improved understanding and trust throughout the world.
“This is a historic day in South Carolina. We have a new friend and partner. We look forward to strengthening our relationship with Colombia and we look forward to all we are able to share,” Haley said.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
The bilateral relationship between South Carolina and Colombia is the 64th state partnership in the program’s history. With the addition of Colombia, there are a now a total of 22 relationships with 28 countries in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility.
“We have a new friend today that the Republic of Colombia has found with the state of South Carolina. We are very excited about this new relationship. We are now partners for life,” Bedoya said.
The vice minister remarked that his country and South Carolina have much in common, including “the values that we share, the respect for our men and women in uniform, and of course, the fight against terrorism and narco-trafficking.”
Major General Robert E. Livingston Jr., the adjutant general of South Carolina, said he is also looking forward to the partnership.
“Both of us – the Colombian military and the South Carolina National Guard – have a lot of hard lessons learned in counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, consequence management and response to local emergencies in support of local authorities,” Livingston said. “This truly is a sharing. We don’t have all the answers and the Colombians don’t have all the answers. But as we share we become stronger militaries.”
The program’s goals reflect an evolving international affairs mission for the National Guard to interact with both the active and reserve forces of foreign nations, interagency partners, and international nongovernmental organizations, emphasizing the National Guard’s unique state and federal characteristics.
Program partners engage in a broad range of security cooperation activities, including homeland defense; disaster response and mitigation; crisis management; border, port and aviation security; fellowship-style internships; and bilateral familiarization events that lead to training and exercise opportunities.
Activities are coordinated through the combatant commander, U.S. ambassador and other agencies to ensure National Guard cooperation is tailored to meet the U.S. and international partners’ objectives.