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Sinai mission bolsters National Guard readiness, interoperability

  • Published
  • By Army Master Sgt. Jim Greenhill,
  • National Guard Bureau

SINAI PENINSULA, Egypt – National Guard members are broadening their military capabilities by supporting the Multinational Force and Observers.

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, visited troops stationed on the Arab Republic of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday.

About 35,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have deployed here in support of the MFO since 2003, an almost continuous Guard contribution of 18 years.

"Deployments like these enhance readiness and deepen interoperability with foreign partners," Hokanson said. "They are often our troops' first introduction to the complex challenges of peace and security in the Middle East."

The Texas National Guard's 1-133rd Field Artillery Regiment is deployed here; Pennsylvania National Guard troops are scheduled to relieve them later this year.

Hokanson was accompanied by Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony Whitehead, the National Guard's most senior enlisted member, who advises the CNGB on enlisted matters. The two led a town hall-style meeting with troops and discussed issues related to Hokanson's priorities for the Guard: people, readiness, modernization and reform.

Hokanson also emphasized an institutional culture that values innovative ideas that produce results. Whitehead said the Texas Citizen-Soldiers had put that philosophy into practice during a deployment made more challenging by the global COVID-19 pandemic: They partnered with the Pennsylvania National Guard's Regional Training Institute to complete the professional military education required for career advancement via distance learning – courses normally attended in person.

And the troops can boast 100 percent accountability in the challenging new Army Combat Fitness Test, Whitehead said.

"Our Guardsmen and women are innovative," Whitehead said. "Some of their civilian-acquired skills have been key to the success of the mission. They have been very strong and resilient in the face of the added challenges caused by the pandemic, and they have maintained their connections with their families and employers."

Before traveling to the Sinai Peninsula, Hokanson was in Cairo and met with Director General MFO Ambassador Stephen Beecroft.

The MFO mission supports the peace that has held for more than four decades since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace, witnessed by President Jimmy Carter at the White House in 1979.

The MFO supervises the implementation of the treaty's security provisions and acts as a trusted third party to prevent any violations. Annex I to the treaty establishes four security zones, three in the Sinai in Egypt and one in Israel along the international border. Limitations on military forces and equipment within each zone are stipulated in the treaty annex.

Since 1981, the MFO has observed, verified, and reported potential treaty violations and facilitated military dialog between Egypt and Israel to build trust, enhance transparency and ensure an enduring peace in the region.

An international force, the MFO is commanded by New Zealand army Maj. Gen. Evan Williams, who told Hokanson that the National Guard provided essential support to the mission and praised Guard members' contributions. More than a dozen nations provide the troops, while Egypt, Israel and the United States provide the principal funding to sustain the operation.

The mission is conducted in the challenging and dynamic environment of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula – a mountainous, thinly populated desert about the size of West Virginia, with Israel and the Gaza Strip on its eastern border.

Hokanson is the 29th chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He ensures the 443,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who serve as the primary combat reserve of the Army and the Air Force are accessible, capable and ready to support our combatant commanders overseas and our communities here at home.