TRONDHEIM, Norway – The Minnesota National Guard signed an official State Partnership Program agreement with Norway Feb. 15 to further expand their 50-year relationship.
“As a Minnesotan and a member of the Minnesota National Guard, I am grateful the Department of Defense has officially approved our partnership with Norway,” said Army Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, Minnesota National Guard’s adjutant general.
“Unique from the earlier State Partnership Program model, our relationship with Norway is already mature,” said Manke. “What a great day for the United States and a great day for Minnesota as we further commit to the future with our partner and our friend, Norway.”
After 50 years of a partnership between the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard through the U.S.-Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange, known as NOREX, Minnesota will broaden its partnership to the entire Norwegian armed forces agencies through the State Partnership Program. This partnership will increase the Minnesota National Guard’s interoperability with a NATO ally and build upon already established ties.
“I am humbled and honored to be here today to dedicate this [State Partnership Program] agreement to all the people who started this program [NOREX] in 1973 and followed up through 50 years,” said Eirik Kristoffersen, chief of defence of Norway. “I think they would be very proud to see what we have accomplished.
“Now it’s up to us to take this further,” said Kristoffersen. “I don’t see any limitations; I just see possibilities. This is not just an agreement between the Norwegian Home Guard and the Minnesota National Guard. It’s an agreement between two militaries and two nations that we have all the possibilities to develop further.”
The Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program pairs the National Guard of a U.S. state or territory with a partner nation’s military, security forces, and government agencies responsible for emergency and disaster response. The program began in 1993 with 13 partners and is known for its low-cost yet high-payoff application to security cooperation efforts. Thirty years later, the program now includes 88 partnerships with 100 nations around the globe and is a key U.S. security cooperation tool that facilitates collaboration across all aspects of civil-military affairs.
The Minnesota Guard has shared a partnership with Croatia for 27 years, and now Norway will become another official partner through this program.
The State Partnership Program agreement signers in Norway were His Excellency U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Ambassador Marc Nathanson; Bjørn Arild Gram, Norwegian minister of defence; Eirik Kristoffersen, chief of defence of Norway; Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau; and Army Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, Minnesota National Guard’s adjutant general.