ALLIANCE BETWEEN MACEDONIAN ARMY AND VERMONT NATIONAL GUARD
A historic alliance between soldiers from Vermont and Macedonia will mark the first time that troops from a non-NATO country have embedded inside U.S. military units.
In what Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie calls an unprecedented partnership, about 80 soldiers from Macedonia will deploy to Afghanistan and serve as integral parts of units from Vermont. The Vermont National Guard spent 18 months lobbying the Pentagon to get the partnership approved and finally got the go-ahead from top U.S. defense officials in November.
"This was a major muscle movement to try to get this approved," Dubie said last week. "Everyone liked the idea, but it was tough because this is the first time a non-NATO nation is embedding inside a U.S. brigade."
The coalition between Vermont and Macedonia dates back to 1994, when the countries were matched in the State Partnership Program, a U.S. Department of Defense initiative aimed at fostering strategic relationships with new democracies.
The Vermont National Guard was paired because both regions are mountainous and approximately the same geographic size. Over the past 15 years, Macedonian soldiers have trained with their Vermont counterparts during exchange visits in both countries.
The deployment to Afghanistan, Dubie said, marked an opportunity to cement the relationship and create a true brotherhood.
"If you are willing to have a partnership that includes deploying to a combat area together, there's really no better representation of what partnership is about," Dubie said.
Macedonia committed some of its best soldiers to the mission, according to Dubie, who said the Macedonians traveled to the United States last month to train alongside the Vermont Guard in Fort Polk, LA.
"They're sending some of their special forces," Dubie said. "They're very professional. If we didn't have confidence that they were that good, we never would have gone through this very difficult process of getting this approved."
Dubie said the Macedonians will play no small role in the war effort.
"Some of them will be in leadership positions," Dubie said. "You could have a Macedonian squad leader in charge of people from the United States."
The United States has worked closely with soldiers from around the world in a war effort that includes dozens of countries. Unlike those nations though, Macedonia however is not a member of the North American Treaty Organization.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov visited Vermont earlier this year for a briefing on the deployment.