Minnesotans visit Croatia to mark 20 years of State Partnership

July 12, 2016 (KARLOVAC, Croatia) — Former and current members of the Minnesota National Guard, Governor Mark Dayton and the St. Paul civic group “Serving Our Troops” visited Croatia to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the State Partnership Program, July 2, 2016.

During the trip Governor Dayton, the Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, and current and former Minnesota National Guard leadership visited the Dubovac Primary School in Karlovac, Croatia. The elementary school just finished being refurbished by the Croatian Army Engineering Regiment, the Minnesota Army National Guard’s 851st Vertical Engineer Company, and Civil Engineer Squadron members from the 133rd Airlift Wing and the 148th Fighter Wing. The engineers worked together to build a state-of-the-art kitchen, locker room and restrooms in the aging school.

“The partnership between Minnesota and Croatia is strong, and I am very honored to be here to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our State Partnership Program,” said Nash. “This simple gesture of cooperation on making sure that the future of Croatia – the nation’s youth – have the necessary facilities to learn, grow and prosper is emblematic of our partnership.”

Minnesota and Croatia have been state partners since 1996. Since Minnesota and Croatia partnered under the National Guard State Partnership Program, Minnesota and Croatia have participated in more than 100 bilateral military and civilian engagements. The program has created partnerships that include the efforts of many organizations and individuals such as private firms, civic organizations and non-profit agencies to name a few.

“This is both a service to the Croatian people and a unique experience for the Minnesota National Guard, both Army and Air, and their engineering counterparts from the Croatian Army Engineering regiment,” said United States Ambassador to Croatia, Julieta Valls Noyes. “The partnership that is created by our two militaries working together to help a community in need forms a special bond.”

The project at the school is the latest humanitarian civic assistance project between the Minnesota National Guard and the Croatian Armed Forces.

“Schools serve a very important function in the community as they help develop the students to be future leaders,” continued Ambassador Noyes. “It is always good when we can come together to make a positive impact or a positive difference and today is the culmination of that.”

The kitchen renovation project cost $86,000. Funding was used solely for the purchase of the construction material and supplies. The U.S. military troops and the Croatian Army provided the labor at no cost. Nash and Noyes agreed that this allows the Guardsmen to practice their skills such as tiling, plumbing, masonry, and electrical while learning about interoperability with the Croatian military. The project featured two groups of 32 troops from Minnesota and eight Croatian engineers.

The state partnership is a mutual alliance with planning committees in both Minnesota and the Republic of Croatia who work together in a cooperative effort to improve and enrich the lives of everyone it touches.

“What was once a partnership that focused on the tactics, weapons, and rigor of armed conflict has blossomed into projects that provide humanitarian and civic assistance to what matters most – the children of Croatia,” said Nash.

The delegation from Minnesota later attended an official 20th Anniversary commemoration ceremony, met with senior Croatian military officials and had an office call with Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

The culmination of the trip ended with St. Paul Minnesota civic group “Serving Our Troops” providing a steak meal to Minnesota National Guard and Croatian Armed Forces service members in celebration of the 20th Anniversary.

by Staff Sgt. John Angelo
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs