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Youngkin signs partnership program for Virginia National Guard, Finland

Courtesy of the Office of Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

The Virginia National Guard has been selected as the U.S. partner to the nation of Finland for the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

The official state partnership signing ceremony was held at the Finnish Ministry of Defense with signing partners Minister of Defence Antti Häkkänen, Maj. Gen. James W. Ring, the Adjutant General of Virginia and Gen. Janne Jaakkola, Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces in Helsinki, Finland.

“Now more than ever, it is critically important we build and maintain key strategic relationships to enhance security and provide new avenues for economic development, and I have no doubt the Virginia National Guard’s partnership with Finland will bring greater peace, stability and opportunity,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said. “I know making this formal partnership a reality required tremendous effort and energy, and I want to thank our Virginia National Guard and the Finnish Ministry of Defense for their hard work.”

Sasha N. Baker, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, approved the partnership in a memo dated April 23, 2024.

“Establishing this partnership with Finland is a significant milestone for the Virginia National Guard and underscores commitment to fostering international cooperation,” retired Maj. Gen. Craig Crenshaw, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, said. “This collaboration will not only enhance our tactical capabilities but also strengthen the bonds of friendship and mutual understanding between our forces.”

The partnership between the VNG and Finnish Ministry of Defense is expected to focus on combined air operations and interoperability defense including defense against cyber threats, information and intelligence operations, combined land forces capability including the deployment of military forces in cold weather environments, military assistance and support for disaster operations and facilitating special operations training.

“The foundations of this partnership go back to 2001 when members of the Finnish Defense Forces served with the Virginia National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division during the Stabilization Force 10 rotation in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2001-2002,” Maj. Gen. James W. Ring, the Adjutant General of Virginia, who was a major and served as the Aviation Task Force operations officer, said. “We formed enduring friendships with our Finnish counterparts, and VNG Soldiers and Airmen have trained with Finnish military personnel on many occasions over the years resulting in deep professional and personal bonds. I have no doubt our future engagements will result in increased readiness for the VNG and our Finnish counterparts. As military allies and partners, we are stronger together.”

Virginia’s State Partnership Program with Finland builds on more than 20 years of friendship and partnership between the VNG and the Finnish Defense Forces. A spokesperson for the U.S Embassy in Helsinki said the State Partnership Program will enhance civil, military, and diplomatic cooperation, create mutually beneficial training opportunities, and facilitate the sharing of expertise and best practices. Working shoulder-to-shoulder, the VNG and Finnish Defense Forces strengthen regional stability and security. The agreement reinforces the steadfast U.S.-Finland partnership on a range of defense priorities and complements Finland’s NATO membership and the U.S.-Finland Defense Cooperation Agreement, and will continue to preserve transatlantic security and meet any challenges the countries might face.

The State Partnership Program began in 1993 with 13 partners. Thirty years later, the program has grown to 89 partner-nations and is a key U.S. security cooperation tool that facilitates collaboration across all aspects of civil-military affairs. Initially developed to assist countries emerging from behind the Iron Curtain, the SPP now involves 89 nations and the National Guard of every U.S. state and territory. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen work with partner militaries to bolster capabilities, improve interoperability and enhance principles of responsible governance.

Finland, Palau, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sweden and Tanzania will be added to the Defense Department National Guard State Partnership Program in 2024, Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th chief of the National Guard Bureau, told a forum of defense and industry leaders March 7, 2024.

The VNG recently observed the 20th anniversary of its partnership with Tajikistan, and more than 200 exchanges have taken place during that time. In the last year, the VNG and Republic of Tajikistan have conducted exchanges on subjects like communications, infantry tactics, checkpoint security, civil engineering and medical evacuation.

The Virginia National Guard is a unique dual-status force with a federal mission to provide a combat reserve for the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force to fight our nation’s wars and a state mission to provide a response force that answers the call of the Governor to defend the Commonwealth. The VNG traces the history and tradition of Citizen-Soldier service to the founding of Jamestown in 1607.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 18,500 VNG Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized across the globe and in the United States for homeland security missions. From August 2021 to February 2023, more than 2,000 VNG personnel mobilized on federal active duty in the U.S. and overseas, the most since 2007. Soldiers and Airmen deployed overseas for missions in Kuwait, Iraq, Horn of Africa, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. VNG troops on duty in the U.S. provided support to the Department of Defense-approved mission assisting Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest Border and cyberspace operations support to U.S. Cyber Command.

‘Build on business relations’: Gov. Youngkin meets with Finland president in European trade mission – Augusta Free Press

U.S. Senate approves addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO – Augusta Free Press

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.