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In Vietnam, Hokanson Sees Growing Partnership

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

HANOI, Vietnam – In 2014, Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Hokanson came here as adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard to further his state’s nascent partnership with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Recently, Army Gen. Hokanson returned as the National Guard’s top general to celebrate more than a decade of exchanges between Oregon Guardsmen and the People’s Army of Vietnam under the 100-nation Department of Defense National Guard State Partnership Program.

Hokanson met with senior U.S. and Vietnamese leaders to help reinforce the mutually beneficial, successful security relationship established in 2012, which strengthens the partners’ capabilities to respond to natural disasters.

“I was gratified to see how the SPP relationship has grown from strength to strength since I first came here,” the chief of the National Guard Bureau said after his Vietnam visit, the second stop on a three-nation Indo-Pacific trip. “The partnership between Vietnam and the Oregon Guard is the continuation of the bilateral relations our nations established in 1995 — a furthering of trust, respect, and a shared commitment to regional and international security.”

Cooperation between Vietnam and the Oregon Guard includes disaster management, defense professionalization, cybersecurity, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance, and military medicine.

A disaster management event is the premier annual engagement between Oregon Guardsmen and the Vietnam Committee for Disaster, Incident Response, and Search and Rescue, or VINASARCOM, allowing both partners to improve their ability to respond to natural disasters and to communicate effectively with key agencies.

“When I was in Oregon, we sent our Soldiers and Airmen to Vietnam to learn about response to flooding,” Hokanson said. “We also helped Vietnamese military leaders plan and develop an emergency management center and coached them on operational procedures.”

Hokanson drove to Hai Phong, a port city on the South China Sea coast about 75 miles east of the capital of Hanoi, for the closing ceremony of this year’s disaster management exercise.

“Oregon has a lot to learn from Vietnam,” Hokanson said. “Both partners suffer similar natural disasters: tsunamis, landslides, floods and wildfires. Through these exchanges, our countries share best practices to minimize suffering during crises.”

Hokanson also visited cultural sites, including the remaining part — now a museum — of Ho Lo Prison, or “Hanoi Hilton,” built by the French in the late 19th century to house Vietnamese political prisoners during colonial rule and later home to captured American servicemen during the Vietnam War. He also saw the Vietnam Military History Museum and the Temple of Literature, a national university built in 1070 that is now an oasis of pavilions, altars and statues in a setting of gardens, courtyards and ponds in the heart of bustling Hanoi, where crowds of uniformed school children celebrated the end of the academic year with class photographs during his visit.

Among countries surveyed, the population of Vietnam has the world’s highest approval rating of Americans at 84%, according to the Pew Research Center.

“I am proud and thankful to be welcomed to Vietnam and be a part of 27 years and counting of normalized diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States,” Hokanson said.

About 482,000 of Vietnam’s 91 million people are active duty members of the People’s Army of Vietnam, which includes the republic’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Border Guard and Coast Guard.

“Our National Defense Strategy is clear: Mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships are an enduring strength and will be more critical in the years ahead,” Hokanson said. “That’s why the SPP is so important. And that’s why the relationship between Vietnam and the Oregon Guard is so important.”

The SPP gives Guardsmen opportunities to experience the global operational environment. The program allows relationships to develop over decades and entire careers, a feature unique to the Guard, most of whose members have a degree of stability within their state or territory not typical of active-duty forces rotated between geographically dispersed assignments every three or four years. The SPP helps both partners improve readiness; enhance the ability of different military systems, organizations and forces to work together; and build cooperation.

“We cannot surge trust; we can only build it,” Hokanson said. “Person by person, day by day, year by year.

“We look to expand the SPP by 30 countries in the next decade,” he said. “Some of those will be in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility, which will help strengthen ties with partners and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific that is more connected, prosperous, secure and resilient.”