In April this year, the Swedish government applied to be nominated to the State Partnership Program (SPP), managed by the National Guard Bureau. The SPP was founded 30 years ago, and involves some hundred nations. In simple terms, it means that the National Guard of any US state and the armed forces of a specific country, are linked together. Normally, it takes approximately two years from application to an approved partnership.
The US National Guard is the military reserve force for the Army and the Air Force.
During the two-day visit, the Chief of the National Guard was able to see the Swedish capabilities and listen to the Swedish thoughts about which US state that might be suitable to cooperate more closely with.
"Which US state Sweden will cooperate with is a political decision, but all US states wish to cooperate with you Swedes, so it's going to be a tough competition. Your application has been submitted and we are working hard to have it reviewed in the coming year. When I get back to Washington DC, I will emphasise how important the SPP is to the National Guard. The Arctic is becoming increasingly important. To exercise together in the conditions that you have here is vital, you have a lot to teach us. And we look forward to you being a member of Nato”, says General Daniel Hokanson.
During the visit, he familiriased himself with the JAS 39 Gripen cockpit - familiar grounds for a former helicopter pilot - at the Norrbotten Wing (F 21) in the town of Luleå. He then went on to the town of Boden and the Norrbotten Regiment, where he was invited to test drive combat vehicle 90, as well as get a close-up look at the Archer and combat vehicle 122. The visit also included a short stop at the Northern Military Region Staff and the Karlberg military academy in Stockholm. There was also a scheduled meeting with Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonsson, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Micael Bydén and Chief of the Defence Staff Michael Claesson.
The Swedish Army and Air Force have a lot to learn from the US National Guard when it comes to large scale; as the National Guard has eight full army divisions and 90 air wings.
"Over the past 20 years, our efforts have consisted of small formations from fixed bases, but experience from Ukraine show that we must be able to go back to large-scale operations", says General Daniel Hokanson.
"In addition to the Swedish Nato membership, bilateral military cooperation between the US and Sweden is crucial. The US National Guard has capabilities ranging from the trenches to space that we, as a small nation, do not have yet, nor will be able to afford. Here, we can learn from their expertise and ways in which to get help and assistance", says Swedish Army Chief Jonny Lindfors.