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News | Feb. 21, 2023

In the land of volcanos

By Staff Sgt. Timothy Hayden

NH Adjutant Gen. David Mikolaities and Salvadoran Defense Minister René Merino met for the second time in nine months during a New Hampshire National Guard-El Salvador State Partnership event Feb. 3 to 6 that included concerts by the 39th Army Band and a vehicle maintenance exchange.

It was an opportune time for the two leaders to catch up as the partnership enters its 23rd year and The National Guard celebrates the program’s 30th anniversary.

“The meeting was great,” said Mikolaities after the Feb. 6 office call at the Ministerio de la Defensa Nacional. “It allowed us to reconnect and continue to build on this long-running relationship.”

The 157th Air Refueling Wing transported the NHNG contingent, about 40 guardsmen, on a KC-46A refueler from Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington. In addition to the six-hour flight, the 157th crew performed a flyover each day of the airshow.

The first day on the ground Mikolaities met with newly appointed U.S ambassador to El Salvador, William Duncan, at Embajada de los Estados Unidos en El Salvador.  Sightseeing was also built into the schedule, which included a visit to Mayan ruins and hiking an active volcano.

While the band played both days of the Illopango Airshow, a six-man maintenance crew from the NHARNG traveled across the country, exchanging best practices with their counterparts in the Salvadoran navy.

The team conducted technical inspections of troop carrier trucks at La Union Naval Base at the country’s southernmost coastal point, and a naval compound in the capital city of San Salvador.

“I believe we accomplished what he came here to do,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Randall Dockham, maintenance manager for the NHARNG. His crew presented standardized methods for documenting vehicle maintenance issues as well as detailed technical manuals for diagnosing problems in the future. “We laid the groundwork for future opportunities to exchange information with our Salvadoran partners.”

Chief Warrant Officer 5 George Munson, state command chief warrant for the NHARNG, accompanied Mikolaities. It was his first visit to El Salvador.

“By providing direct training assistance to their military personnel, we are not just affecting their readiness, we are building partnerships and friendships that our adversaries cannot match,” Munson said.

The Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau created the State Partnership Program in the early 1990s as an initiative to assist countries emerging from behind the Iron Curtain.

SPP now includes partnerships with the National Guard of every U.S. state and territory and 100 countries around the world. Some states have multiple partnerships. Last year, Cabo Verde agreed to become the NHNG’s second state-partner country.