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Story by: Eric Durr - New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs
Dated: Mon, May 17, 2010
LATHAM-South Africa’s top general visited New York National Guard headquarters here Monday on the second day of a weeklong tour of American military headquarters.
General Godfrey Ngwenya, Chief of the South African National Defense Force, was briefed on New York National Guard disaster relief and civil support capabilities.
He also heard about the role of the New York State Emergency Office from SEMO Director John Gibb, and received a rundown on New York State Police and the functions of the New York State Intelligence Center. The intelligence center allows local police forces to share information on criminal activity and terrorism.
Ngwenya, who has led the South African military since 2005, visited New York because the New York National Guard is teamed with South Africa as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. Other stops on his trip to meet with American military leaders will include visits to United States Southern Command, United States Joint Forces Command, and United States Special Operations Command.
The State Partnership Program pairs developing nations with state National Guards to develop strong bilateral military and civilian relationships. Since 2003 New York National Guard members have visited South Africa to take part in training events and conferences, while South Africans regularly visit New York.
In November 2009 a South African military delegation visited western New York to observe the Vigilant Guard emergency disaster drill the National Guard sponsored in Tonawanda. Later this year the New York Army and Air National Guard will participate in air show being sponsored by South Africa.
“South Africa learns a lot from this partnership,” Ngwenya said. We learn from the United States, particularly when it comes to counter terrorism.”
It was also useful to learn about the capabilities of the New York State Police, since crime is a major problem in South Africa, he added.
“It was pleasing for me to learn from Americans that we are all together here sharing information and the kinds of facilities that they have, I think we stand to benefit from,” Ngwenya said.
While the South African National Defense Force has a reserve component, it is very different from the National Guard, Ngwenya said.
“The National Guard has got a big mandate and it is independent and in South Africa we have the reserves and they are part of the Defence Force and they do not have the resources the National Guard has,” he said.
South African law forbids using the reserves in the kind of local civil support role that the National Guard fills regularly in the United States, he explained.
But, he said, maybe that should change.
“We have learned from your people that you can mobilize those people any time you want,” he said.
Hosting Ngwenya and his party was just one more way to develop the relationships that are so important in the modern, globalized world, said Brig. Gen. Renwick Payne, Director of Joint Staff for the New York National Guard.
“One of the things we have discovered, as we in the United States put together a package that supports internationally, is it is important to make relationships and develop relationships,” Payne explained.
“The significance of Gen. Ngwenya coming to the United States, and us hosting him, is it shows the strength of commitment between the United States and the State of New York to support those issues that are relevant to South Africa,” Payne added.