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Nevada National Guard Holds Workshop for New Partner Samoa

  • Published
  • By Capt. Emerson Marcus,
  • Nevada Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Michael Fusi Ligaliga understands familial village systems and how they work in the Independent State of Samoa.

He’s an assistant professor and program lead of Pacific Island Studies at Brigham Young University in Hawaii.

He’s also a Matai, or Chief, at his village in Samoa.

Ligaliga spoke this week during a Nevada National Guard State Partnership Program workshop at the Office of the Adjutant General in Carson City.

“One of the things I am extremely proud of is our traditions of our forefathers,” Ligaliga said of Samoa, the first Pacific Island nation to gain independence on June 1, 1962. “Most of them were farmers. Sovereignty was important. We wanted our own identity.”

The event brought Nevada Guardsmen together with representatives from the National Guard Bureau, Defense Security Cooperation University, the Institute of Security Governance and the Nevada Governor’s Office. The workshop focused on the Nevada National Guard’s newest partner nation through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program: Samoa.

In 2023, Samoa joined the Kingdom of Tonga and the Republic of Fiji as Nevada’s third state partner in the program, which matches a sovereign nation with a state National Guard for mutually beneficial exchanges and partnerships.

“We were very impressed by the quality of discussion and the presenters (for the two-day workshop),” said Maj. Kristina Roberts, NGB J-5, Indo-Pacific Command desk officer who attended the event. “This is a great first step helping establish the Samoa-Nevada partnership on the right foot. Understanding the culture is pivotal for any State Partnership Program.”

Iati Iati, associate professor, School of History, Political Science and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington, also spoke on the importance of understanding geopolitical competition and regional conflicts throughout Oceania.

“I think it went spectacularly well,” said Maj. Dustin Petersen, Nevada National Guard SPP director. “From a professional standpoint, we had a good workout, to use a gym term. This week’s event helped professionalize our SPP force quite a bit by bringing in experts on the culture from Samoa. Working with ISG and DSCU was also very important to our success with this week’s workshop.”

Samoa (known as “Western Samoa” until 1997) is an archipelago consisting of two main islands, Upolu and Savai’i, and seven smaller islands. It has about 200,000 people, with roughly 75 percent of them residing in the capital city of Apia.

Samoa was a German protectorate before World War I and was occupied unopposed by New Zealand in 1914. In 1962, Samoa became the first Polynesian nation to establish independence in the 20th century. Its official languages are Samoan and English.

Each partnership works through mutually beneficial exchanges between nations and state National Guards. Given that Samoa does not have a state military force, future engagements in Samoa will focus on a whole-of-government approach incorporating outside military state agencies. One exchange scheduled for this year is set to focus on medical readiness, Petersen said.

The SPP began in 1993 with 13 partners following the end of the Cold War. Thirty-one years later, it includes 92 partnerships with 106 nations and is a key U.S. security cooperation tool that facilitates collaboration across all aspects of civil-military affairs.