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News | Nov. 9, 2021

National Guard, Israel reaffirm 15-year partnership

By Master Sgt. Jim Greenhill National Guard Bureau

The chief of the National Guard Bureau and the commanding general of Israel’s Home Front Command reaffirmed the National Guard Bureau’s 15-year bilateral relationship with Israel here last week.

“Our security cooperation partnership in homeland defense has enhanced the safety of citizens of both nations,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson said after a Wednesday signing ceremony with Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, Home Front Command commander. “Our primary goal is to strengthen American and Israeli crisis response and consequence management capabilities.”

Israel’s support to the search for victims after the June collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Florida, is an example of the exchange of expertise.

An HFC search and rescue team used advanced technology to help first responders precisely locate victims in the rubble of the pancaked building. The same HFC team brought lessons they learned in Miami back home, and three buildings in Israel were subsequently declared unsafe. Lives were likely saved, officials said.

And Israeli firefighters helped with this year’s California wildfires, which have burned an area the size of Maryland.

“We learn from each other,” Hokanson said. “It’s a two-way relationship.”

Among topics National Guardsmen and Home Front Command troops share knowledge about: crisis and consequence management, population resilience, and defense support to civil authorities. The partners share best practices from both real-world and training events.

“We’re looking forward to strengthening our work together via joint training and expanded exercises,” Hokanson said.

Israeli authorities invest considerable resources in building citizens’ resilience, so people are prepared for natural or manmade disasters. Officers briefed Hokanson on tools the nation uses to ensure residents receive timely and accurate information during a crisis, including smartphone apps.

“In the U.S., we have programs such as that encourage people to build emergency kits, plan in advance, understand the emergency alert system and anticipate challenges,” Hokanson said. “These programs help increase the number of survivors and reduce the number of victims, which significantly helps first responders during a disaster.”

The National Guard’s bilateral relationship with Israel supports Defense Department and geographic combatant command objectives.

“This visit enabled us to take a fresh look at this unique partnership,” Hokanson said. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Guard and Israel were conducting more than 40 engagements each year.”

Taking precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks and conducting frequent tests enabled Hokanson’s team to safely engage with their Israeli counterparts.

Israel’s defense forces are transitioning from coordination with the European Command to the Central Command area of responsibility. “This transition holds the potential for enhanced exercises and increased training opportunities between us,” Hokanson said.

The National Guard conducts exchanges with Israel in multiple states, especially Guardsmen from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and New York.

Cooperation has included participation in national-level exercises, knowledge-sharing and lessons learned through seminars and conferences, senior leader meetings, and an urban search and rescue exercise hosted alternately in the United States and Israel.

Both the National Guard and the Home Front Command defend their homelands. Both forces are primarily manned with reservists. Both respond to natural and manmade disasters. Both provide defense support to civil authorities under civilian direction.

“Sharing lessons learned and tactics, techniques and procedures benefit each of us,” Hokanson said. “America’s bonds with our partners and allies strengthen our national security, and the National Guard is proud to be part of that process.”