By Spc. Tarell J. Bilbo, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana National Guard hosted a visit from the Honorable Pamela A. White, United States ambassador to Haiti, while she toured several facilities and surveyed some operational programs in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, May 13-15.
“This State Partnership Program Haiti Key Leader Engagement is a part of the 2015 plan for Haiti,” said Maj. Allen D. West, LANG State Partnership Program coordinator. “The exchange allowed discussion of previous and future events between the LANG and Haiti leadership to determine value, success and adjustments that may need to be done with future events that are planned.”
Since 2010, Louisiana and Haiti have been partnered together in the National Guard Bureau’s SPP, which couples countries and states to link U.S. national interests and security cooperation goals by engaging partner nations to promote national objectives, stability, partner capacity, better understanding and trust.
White and her group of Haiti government officials started their visit at the historic Jackson Barracks in New Orleans, where they received informational briefings and an opportunity to tour the post.
“From what I’ve learned today, I have great hope that the bond between Louisiana and Haiti will be strengthened,” said White. “The work that the National Guard has done has been extremely helpful to Haiti.”
Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the LANG has worked to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian government to prepare for, and react in case of major natural events, to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian National Police and support the activities of the Haitian Coast Guard, help construct schools and medical centers, and provide much needed medical and dental aid to Haitian communities.
“As we move into the future, whatever our Haitian partners need, we want you to ask, and we will try to find the answers for you, or with you,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the LANG, further expressing the importance of a strengthening bond. “We will provide whatever assets and capabilities we have available to help the people of Haiti and assist them in any way possible.”
The second day of the tour brought the ambassador and her team to the Baton Rouge area to visit the LANG’s Youth Challenge Program at Gillis W. Long Center in Carville and to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge.
“The Youth Challenge Program is just remarkable!” exclaimed White. “We’re hoping that we can use this example to start something for youth in Haiti, and if we can do half of what you do here, it would be fabulous.”
The Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program aims to produce program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary in order to succeed as productive citizens, and is administered to participants at no cost. This award-winning program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost efficient programs for targeting at-risk youth.
Since 1994, more than 100,000 cadets have graduated nationwide with more than 19,000 being from Louisiana.
White also added that she would like to see a program like YCP started in her home state of Maine.
“DoD came down to Haiti and built some Emergency Operation Centers, and thankfully the Louisiana National Guard is helping us operationalize them,” added White. “To come here [GOHSEP] and see the capabilities and the training … this is really where you want to be. The ability to communicate between agencies here is just amazing.”
The SPP has been successfully building relationships for over 20 years, which includes 68 unique security partnerships involving 74 nations around the globe.