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Chief sets course for June's Partnership workshop in Europe

WASHINGTON -- The chief of the National Guard Bureau hosted an informal dinner with a taste of the American West for defense attachés from Southeastern European countries at his official home beside the Potomac River on the last evening in April.

LTG H Steven Blum presented the foreign officers with the agenda and other advance information about a State Partnership Program regional workshop that will involve 10 Southeast European nations beginning 34 days later, June 3, in Bulgaria. State National Guard leaders and chiefs of defense staffs and appropriate civilian emergency management leaders from the European countries will attend the two-day conference in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city.

The attachés will forward the information to their countries' chiefs of defense.
Maj. General Vasil Varbanov, Bulgaria's defense attaché, was the honored guest because he brought a letter from Lt. Gen. Galimir Pehlivanov, Bulgaria's deputy chief of General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, inviting the SPP participants to Bulgaria for the second workshop of its kind in that part of the world. Last year's workshop was held in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik bordering the Adriatic Sea.

"It is an honor and a pleasure to welcome you to my home," Blum said. "The Dubrovnik Workshop was very successful last year, and I look forward to the chance to improve our State Partnership relationships even further in Sofia in a few weeks."

Lt. Gen. Pehlivanov and Blum will co-host the workshop in June.

The purpose of the workshop is "to bring together National Guard adjutants general and partner country chiefs of defense to exchange information and ideas to strengthen their mutual security cooperation activities under the State Partnership Program and the U.S. European Command and promote stability and progress in Southeast Europe," explained Col. Randy Everett, director of the National Guard Bureau's Office of International Affairs.

Topics will include helping the countries' military forces achieve NATO standards, military support to civil authorities during disasters, and improving civil security through education, legal, medical, science, and business exchanges.

"I would ask your chiefs of defense to come to this workshop with robust ideas about further developing and resourcing these activities," Everett encouraged the attachés.

The comfortable spring evening under a canopy of new green leaves made for an ideal setting for the gathering at Blum's home at Fort McNair that features an iconic view of the Washington Monument across the Potomac. The 26 people, including other Guard Bureau officials and representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of the Army and National Defense University, dined on barbecue and were entertained by the Silver Wings, a six-member country music group from the U.S. Air Force Band.

The National Guard's State Partnership Program, which has evolved since 1993, pairs 59 countries around the world with state Guard organizations to promote military exchanges and military support to civil authorities, including emergency management and disaster response and civil security cooperation through educational, legal, medical and scientific contacts.

The 10 countries set to take part in June's workshop already have established partnerships with U.S. states.

Bulgaria, for example, is partnered with Tennessee. Other affiliations are: Albania-New Jersey, Bosnia & Herzegovina-Maryland, Croatia-Minnesota, Hungary and Serbia-Ohio, Macedonia-Vermont, Montenegro-Maine, Romania-Alabama, and Slovenia-Colorado.

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