The Wisconsin National Guard was recently selected to begin a new state partnership with the Pacific Island Country of Papua New Guinea, highlighting Wisconsin’s special relationship to Papua New Guinea spanning back to the Second World War.
The State Partnership Program (SPP) is administered by the National Guard Bureau and includes partnerships with more than 80 countries. Throughout the program, the Wisconsin National Guard will support goals surrounding defense security by conducting military-to-military engagements and security cooperation activities. The Guard will also focus on relationship building with the local Papua New Guinea community, engaging with government, economic, and social spheres to exchange knowledge and resources.
The unique relationship between Wisconsin and Papua New Guinea began during the Second World War, with Wisconsin’s famous 32nd “Red Arrow” Division fighting brutal campaigns in Japanese-occupied New Guinea. Three Wisconsin Red Arrow Soldiers earned Medals of Honor posthumously for their actions in New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific Island Country, is an observer state in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and is one of the most culturally and geographically diverse countries in the world. It’s known to have about 852 living languages, although 12 of them have no living speakers. Over 75% of its citizens live in rural areas, and 40% live self-sustainable lifestyles with no access to global capital. In addition to defense security, a partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard has the potential to assist Papua New Guinea in security operation activities such as emergency management and disaster response, border and port security and natural resource protection.
This will be the 11th SPP relationship in the Indo-Pacific region, the most recent relationships between Nepal and Utah, Malaysia and Washington, and Tonga & Fiji and Nevada. All of these relationships exist beneath the United States Indo-Pacific Command, the oldest and largest of US unified combatant commands. This command is responsible for military operations in an area which encompasses more than 100 million square miles, stretching from the Arctic to the Antarctic and across the West Coast of the United States to the west coast of India, an area more than 50% of Earth’s surface.
Betty Nen is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, and the proud daughter of a Papua New Guinean citizen. She is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison with majors in Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies, and a returned David L. Boren National Security Scholar to Indonesia.