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NEWS | June 16, 2021

Michigan and Latvia strengthen partnership during key leader engagement

By 2nd Lt. Ashley Goodwin Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

For 28 years the relationship between the Michigan National Guard (MING) and Latvian National Armed Forces (LNAF) has grown immensely. The State Partnership Program (SPP) was created to foster such relationships and is an official collaboration between the U.S. National Guard Bureau, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. State Department. The Michigan-Latvia partnership was one of the first three bilateral relationships – along with Pennsylvania/Lithuania and Maryland/Estonia – to be formalized on April 27, 1993.

On May 25-26, 2021, Māris Selga, ambassador of the Republic of Latvia to the United States of America, Latvian National Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Andis Dilāns and Col. Ilze Žilde, defense attachés and Rolands Heniņš, defense counselor, met with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and senior leaders with the Michigan National Guard to view the MING facilities throughout the state.

The visit offered the opportunity for key leaders to discuss personnel exchanges, continued cooperation, and MING and LNAF participation in large-scale global exercise events such as Northern Strike, the Michigan National Guard’s annual joint fires readiness event.

This multiday trip spanned the state, visiting various training facilities to include Army Aviation Support Facility #1 (AASF #1) in Grand Ledge, Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center (CGJMTC), and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center (Alpena CRTC).

“This successful and well-organized visit to the National Guard of Michigan underlines the positive progress of our common goals and our close friendship. Latvia is proud to have Michigan side by side for all these years,” said Selga. “This visit gave us a chance to identify even more opportunities for future collaboration in the broad area of issues. We are leaving Michigan very inspired about that and looking forward to coming back again soon.”

U.S. Army Col. Raymond Stemitz discussed the Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center (KJJADIC) located at Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit which opened in Sept. 2020. The KJJADIC was created to help military planners find innovative solutions to a variety of diverse and complex problems affecting the warfighter. Through the KJJADIC and coached by the University of Michigan Ross School of Business/Innovatrium, a Multi-National Joint All Domain workshop is being held in August after Northern Strike 21.

The goal of the workshop is to maximize the intellectual capital available with MING partners to develop more effective and regionally informed solutions to their common challenges. It’s a new way to solve complex problems that leverages Michigan’s geographic and cultural diversity.

The day continued with a tour of AASF#1, which provided an overview of daily flight operations, safety procedures, as well as maintenance for the aircraft.

U.S. Army Col. Jeffrey M. Laing, director of aviation and safety, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, General Support Aviation Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard, discussed the opportunity for Michigan aviation units to participate in small unit exchanges and a collective exercise.

The facility will be able to offer an opportunity to learn the trade with supervisor guidance and will provide valuable support to the LNAF and MING.

The National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC) hosts one of the largest National Guard and Reserve components’ exercises on the 148,000 acres of training space and 17,000 square miles of special-use airspace which extends over Lake Huron. Spanning across CGJMTC and Alpena CRTC, NADWC is ideally located to facilitate Joint All-Domain training objectives of the participating units.

The Michigan-Latvia partnership will train in joint operations at Northern Strike 21(NS). The Latvian contingent will include Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, Joint Forward Observers, and a special operations team.

A flyover for the Latvian delegates and MING leadership was conducted in UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72 Lakota helicopters with an ariel tour of CGJMTC.

Once at Alpena CRTC, conversations about the ongoing exchange of personnel with Lielvārde Air Base, which is a major hub of NATO air operations, continued.

After the two-day engagement, the partners plan to continue their conversations and collaboration developed through the utilization of SPP exchanges and exercise participation.