Shekerinska – Cray: Strong and direct partnership between the ARM and the Vermont National Guard for greater experience, knowledge and capacities

The Minister of Defence, Radmila Shekerinska, held a meeting today in the Ministry of Defence with the Commander of the Vermont National Guard from the USA, Major General Steven Cray. The meeting is being held within the official visit of General Cray to the Republic of Macedonia. The Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Macedonia, Jess Baily, was also present at the meeting.

Both sides expressed great satisfaction from the sincere partnership that has been in existence for 22 years. In the period from 1995 until today, more than 850 activities have been realized with the Vermont National Guard, where more than 4,500 members of the MOD and ARM have had the opportunity to get acquainted with the standards, tactics and techniques of operation of the Vermont National Guard, the US Armed Forces and NATO standards.

“Thanks to this cooperation, we have raised the standards of the ARM in accordance with the NATO Alliance standards”, the minister said.

Speaking about our strategic goal, NATO membership, Minister Shekerinska stressed that Macedonia counts on its strategic partners, especially now when we are working rapidly and honestly towards NATO membership. “Macedonia – a NATO member, is a common goal because it serves the two major interests – a stable region, but also stable and safe citizens of the Republic of Macedonia”, the minister added.

General Cray noted that of the 70 partnerships of US National Guards in the world, the Vermont National Guard and ARM partnership is one of the most successful examples of cooperation that has unlimited potential. “The strategic partnership is really beneficial for both countries and we are proud of everything we have managed to provide for Macedonia, but also for the experience that we have gained here in Macedonia. We are really proud of the success we had in the Phoenix Mission in 2010″, General Cray said.

He said that Macedonia’s integration into NATO is part of the goals of the partnership and that during the visit they will discuss the activities that will be undertaken in the coming years, as well as the assistance in terms of NATO membership and the other goals of the country. The General also spoke about the support in the preparation of the Strategic Defence Review, as well as upgrading the capacities and assistance in dealing with natural disasters, the development of the NCO Corps, education and engineering capacities.

The military contact program, part of which is the cooperation between the Army of the Republic of Macedonia and the Vermont National Guard arose from the Memorandum of Cooperation of 1994. The partnership is based on four key areas – stability, democratization, military professionalism and close cooperation with NATO. Within the Phoenix Mission in Afghanistan in 2010, 79 ARM members were fully integrated into the Vermont National Guard teams and performed the most complicated tasks, shoulder to shoulder with their US partners.