Regional military partners are in Guam this week to improve cohesion and build relations as the U.S. continues its power shift into the Asia-Pacific region.
The National Guard's State Partnership Program pairs 79 partner countries, 15 of which are in the Asia-Pacific region, with National Guard forces across the U.S.
This week's training involves six member countries partnered with their U.S. counterparts:
Alaska and Mongolia
Hawaii and Indonesia
Idaho and Cambodia
Guam and the Philippines
Nevada and Tonga
Oregon and Bangladesh
This is also the first time the seminar is being held in Guam since the program was established over 20 years ago.
"The idea is to take advantage of our geographic location as a central meeting ground for participating countries," said Guam National Guard spokeswoman Maj. Josephine Blas on Tuesday after the conference commenced.
The benefit to Guam's forces, Blas said, is that it "ensures the safety of Guam and the region."
"We have good relationships, all of us in this room – we're friends," Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio said. "And we're here to learn how to forecast emergency response, instead of being reactive to it."
Array of topics
The seminar covers a broad spectrum of professional development and skill-building topics.
Over the course of this week, participants will cover Development In Vulnerable Environments and Joint Humanitarian Region Specific Engagement.
According to Blas, DIVE emphasizes post-disaster response and rebuilding.
"We're going to take a look at how we can bounce back more effectively after a disaster hits."
Blas also said relationship building is about "give and take," and that Guam soldiers "benefit whenever we get to learn and apply skills internationally."
Building a safer region
She recalled the extensive humanitarian assistance the Guam National Guard provided to post-Super Typhoon Haiyan recovery efforts in Tacloban, Philippines, in 2014.
"In just a few days, I remember we provided dental and medical treatment to almost 4,000 civilians," Blas said. "This is just one of the ways improving civil relations helps to build a safer region."
At the same time, Blas said Guam guardsmen regularly participate in training operations in the Philippines to "discover different ways of doing things and share knowledge."
The seminar is funded through, and administered by, the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.