FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota National Guard members and their Ghana Armed Forces counterparts spent this month taking part in numerous events together. The visits, workshops and an inaugural African Partnership Flight event brought together the two nation’s militaries again as they enter the eighth year being matched together in the Department of Defense-sponsored State Partnership Program.
“This partnership has provided immense value to not only the North Dakota National Guard and the Ghana Armed Forces, but to the world as a whole as relationships are strengthened to help respond on a global level,” said Brig. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, North Dakota deputy adjutant general. “I’m always impressed to see our dynamic relationship enhanced with each event, propelling our nations forward as we learn from one another through sharing and collaboration for the benefit of others.”
Dohrmann spent last week in Ghana meeting with senior leaders involved in the partnership, as well as witnessing numerous events taking place simultaneously there involving North Dakota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen.
The biggest event this month was the African Partnership Flight, which began March 10 and continued through this past weekend. The multilateral and multi-regional event consisted of U.S. forces from U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Air Forces in Africa and Europe, National Guard Bureau, 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron and the North Dakota National Guard. In addition to Ghana forces, service members from the African countries of Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Senegal also took part.
“The North Dakota National Guard was invited to be part of this event because we have a strong State Partnership Program with Ghana,” said Chief Master Sgt. Doug Faldet, 119th Wing component maintenance flight chief, who served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of African Partnership Flight. “The coordinators of African Partnership Flight wanted to leverage that and use our knowledge with the Ghanaians, making this first Partnership Flight a success.”
During the two weeks of the event, military members from the U.S. and Africa took part in classroom instruction and hands-on aircraft training before conducting an exercise where the African military members demonstrated to their leadership how they were able to secure an area while loading a C-130 aircraft with cargo.
In addition to Faldet, seven other North Dakota National Guard members were in Ghana to facilitate classes focused on aircraft ground maintenance, safety, public affairs and chaplaincy.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Lien, 119th Wing airframe repair specialist, and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Holm, 119th Wing quality assurance superintendent, led the ground maintenance course, which focused on topics such as supply and parts procurement, fuel systems repair, general aircraft maintenance and corrosion control.
Lt. Col. Kurt Fleck, North Dakota National Guard international affairs officer, and Senior Master Sgt. Michael Knight, 119th Wing accessions element superintendent, facilitated the safety course. Fleck previously served as the state safety officer and Knight was the 119th Wing ground safety manager.
“To see how changes have been implemented in Ghana, based on our past trips here, was extremely rewarding,” Fleck said. “To know that we made a difference here really made it worthwhile.”
Communicating those procedures and more was addressed by Capt. Penny Ripperger, 119th Wing Public Affairs Officer, who facilitated a course on media relations, social media and crisis communications. The event tied into the others taking place, with participants using their skills to tell the story of their fellow military members through words, photos and video.
Rounding out a busy time of events, two North Dakota Air National Guard chaplains — Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Bruce Krogstad and Chaplain (Maj.) James Cheney — facilitated a course on chaplaincy in the military and how supported spiritual health becomes a “force multiplier” by enhancing mission readiness.
“I learned so much from this,” Cheney said. “These Africans brought a wealth of experience. I definitely learned more than I gave.”
Three other State Partnership Program events took place earlier this year. In January, three North Dakotans introduced more than 200 in Ghana to the WebEOC program, which serves as an online emergency operations center. Geneva Anderson and Ken Jarolimek, with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, and Juli Sickler, with the North Dakota Department of Health, worked with NADMO — National Disaster Management Organization, Ghana’s version of FEMA — to lead the event. It concluded with a pandemic response tabletop exercise in Elmina, Ghana.
Also in January, two North Dakota National Guard officers provided a workshop that introduced the Ghanaian military to information and intelligence collection. Maj. Russell Wolf, an intelligence officer for the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, and 1st Lt. Jay Sheldon, an analyst for the intelligence branch of North Dakota Army National Guard, discussed steps and processes involved in collecting different types of information, as well as reporting and monitoring it.
In February, an engineer exchange had Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Johnson and Sgt. Dale Wasness facilitating a workshop on construction techniques, from pouring concrete slabs to the types of brick that can be used in a masonry wall to electrical and plumbing techniques.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,800 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, nearly 300 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average.
High-resolution photos to accompany this release are available on Flickr:
- African Partnership Flight Set
- African Partnership Flight Gallery from U.S. Air Forces in Europe
View and download video to accompany this release.