|Oregon finds partner in South Asia
SALEM, Ore. –The Oregon National Guard has established a partnership with one of the most populous, and according to many at the State Department, one of the more strategically-located countries in South Asia.
A delegation from Oregon visited the country of Bangladesh Oct. 25-30. They met with senior Bangladeshi military and civilian leaders to discuss a formal partnership between Oregon and the South Asian country.
"This is a chance for Oregon to reach out and share expertise in nation-building and to promote democracy and support foreign policy," said Brig. Gen. Bruce Prunk, Assistant Adjutant General-Air, for the Oregon Air National Guard.
Oregon's partnership with Bangladesh stems from a national program launched by the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. State Department in the 1990s. The State Partnership Program began as an effort to foster alliances between individual states and former Soviet block countries following the fall of the Soviet Union but has grown to include partnerships with other nations.
Following formal acceptance of the partnership in 2008 by the U.S. State Department, the Oregon National Guard began implementing a plan to make the partnership a reality. Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard, assigned the task to the Oregon Air Guard, since several Army Guard units in Oregon were already tasked with an upcoming deployment to Iraq, Brig. Gen. Prunk said.
According to Brig. Gen. Prunk, besides building a civic and military partnership, Oregon Soldiers and Airmen can also help support the Bangladeshi government by assisting them with disaster relief preparedness and training.
The Oregon delegation also included Maj. Daniel Schilling, Commander of the 125 Special Tactics Squadron, Oregon Air National Guard. Schilling led his unit through the highly-publicized rescue effort in Northwest Oregon during the 2007 floods which heavily damaged towns like Vernonia.
While Oregon has had relationships with several countries in the pastincluding Bulgaria and Austriathe relationship between Oregon and Bangladesh is much more formalized, said Brig. Gen. Prunk.
"This is the first formal relationship between any country and Oregon," he said. "I think it's very exciting for Oregon to establish a long-term relationship with a very strategic partner."
According to Maj. Gen. Rees, the Oregon National Guard can benefit from Bangladesh's skills and experience in peacekeeping operations with the United Nations.
"Bangladesh is the second most prolific contributor to UN peacekeeping operations," he said.
Indeed, Bangladesh is an active member of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace, which is chartered with promoting post-conflict stability and development throughout the world, as well as assisting with amicable resolution to international conflicts.
The country is also a member of the United Nation's Group of 77 Nationsa loose coalition of developing nations designed to promote collective economic interests for its members, and enhance joint negotiating capacity within the U.N.
Furthermore, the Bangladesh military has a formal school dedicated to training in peacekeeping operations. Known as the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training, or BIPSOT, the school trains personnel on key areas of international peacekeeping.
"It is a very professional school which gives us opportunities to train there and learn their skills," Maj. Gen. Rees said.
Another important component to the partnership, according to Maj. Gen. Rees, is Bangladesh's experience with natural disasters. In particular, the Bangladesh government is interested in Oregon's emergency preparedness and response plan, he said.
"We can share information on these capabilities," Maj. Gen. Rees added.
The Bangladeshi partnership comes out of a meeting in early 2008 in Hawaii, between U.S. Navy Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Maj. Gen. Rees, where they discussed a formal partnership between Oregon and Bangladesh.
"Adm. Keating's vision of Bangladesh's strategic role and location was instrumental as a catalyst for the partnership," Maj. Gen. Rees said.
According to both Brig. Gen. Prunk and Maj. Gen. Rees, officials in both Oregon and in Bangladesh are currently outlining key areas they will focus on over the next few years. Another Oregon delegation plans to visit Bangladesh in early 2009 to discuss further details to the partnership.
PA270012: A delegation from the Oregon National Guard met with key civic and military leaders in Bangladesh Oct. 25-30 to discuss a collaborative partnership between Oregon and the South Asian country. This is the first official partner for Oregon in the U.S. State Department's "State Partnership Program", developed to foster relations between the United States and other countries.
Maj. Michael Braibish, 503-584-3886
Capt. Stephen Bomar, 503-584-3885