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News | July 17, 2023

Feeling right at home

By Master Sgt. Charles Johnston

The New Hampshire Army National Guard hosted a State Partnership Program exchange July 9-11 in Concord.

Military guests, seven from El Salvador and three from Cabo Verde, collaborated with Guard aircrews at the Army Aviation Support Facility.

“This gives us an interesting opportunity to get stakeholders together under one roof, share ideas and collaborate,” said Maj. Mario Rey, director of New Hampshire's SPP. “We’re talking about themes of aviation maintenance, safety and operations.”

The three-day event was pursuant to a Department of Defense program that links state National Guards and foreign countries to facilitate military, government and civilian exchanges. The National Guard Bureau initiative is in its 30th year.

New Hampshire first teamed with the Central American nation of El Salvador back in 2000. The pairing with Cabo Verde, an island nation off the northwestern coast of Africa, is in its second year.

The visit was also an opportunity for Cabo Verde to learn more about the C-12, a twin turboprop aircraft flown by NHARNG’s Operational Support Airlift, Detachment 18.

Lt. Col. Domingos Correia, the country’s national director of defense, said there are plans for Cabo Verde to acquire a similar plane to support medevac and transport missions.

“We want to learn with your operations,” Correia said. “With this first contact, we can see and look at how you operate your aircraft, how you manage your resources, and it’s useful to help us to implement in Cabo Verde.”

As with all SPP engagements, cultural exchanges are built in. Col. Saúl Orantes, a Salvadoran helicopter pilot, was especially impressed with the NHNG's military culture.

“I can feel the discipline in your armed forces among soldiers of all different ranks,” he said through an interpreter.

Orantes said it was unique to experience such a high level of cooperation between the enlisted and commissioned guardsmen. He also noted how decisions were delegated more to junior personnel here than he was accustomed to back home.

“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Orantes said.

Moving forward, the state has seven more SPP exchanges planned this year, and will host engagements at the state’s annual TAG marksmanship match and the Thunder Over New Hampshire air show.

“It’s an excellent environment, excellent people and excellent relationship,” Correia said. “I feel at home. Thank you to the National Guard.”