SC Guard announces pact with Colombia

ashain@thestate.comJuly 24, 2012 

The S.C. National Guard agreed to a partnership Monday with Colombia to trade know-how and host personnel exchanges with the South American nation.

The arrangement is part of the National Guard State Partnership Program that has matched 64 countries with state Guard operations nationwide over the past 20 years. Colombia is South Carolina’s first foreign partnership.

South Carolina and Colombia will exchange 30 to 40 personnel two to three times a year to teach and learn about military operations and tactics, such as use of Black Hawk helicopters, S.C. Adjutant General Robert Livingston said.

But state and country can share more than just information on military hardware. South Carolina can help Colombia curb the export of narcotics, while Colombia can help S.C. authorities help stop the drug trade in the Palmetto State, Livingston said.

They also could work on aiding areas that have relied on the drug trade to find new ways to sustain themselves — something the S.C. Guard has learned during deployments to Afghanistan, Livingston said. “It’s an ideas exchange, not a boots-on-the-ground exchange.”

The partnership also will include the Navy and Coast Guard since Colombia and South Carolina have ports to protect. Deployments will last several weeks.

“We don’t have all the answers, and Colombia doesn’t have all the answers,” Livingston said. “But as we share, we become stronger militaries.”

Gov. Nikki Haley said the arrangement also could boost business for the state, which exports goods worth $145 million a year to Colombia. She said the state Commerce Department and S.C. Manufacturers Alliance are involved in the efforts with Colombia, she said.

Members of the Colombia military and government appeared at a news conference announcing the partnership. Livingston said the arrangement was under development for the past four years.

The S.C. National Guard, which has nearly 12,000 members, has worked with other countries in recent years, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, Livingston said.

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