- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota National Guard officials are overseas this week formalizing partnerships with two African nations through the Defense Department-sponsored State Partnership Program.

The effort that began about two decades ago is aimed at fostering military, social and economic ties with other nations. Soldiers from partnered countries share experiences, work together on training and perform joint missions.

Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, commander of the state Guard, and others signed an agreement Thursday with the Republic of Benin. The North Dakota officials on Friday were signing an agreement with Togo. Both nations are in west Africa.

“Working together we can build a program that will strengthen our military organizations and our cultural understanding as well,” Sprynczynatyk said in a statement.

The North Dakota Guard is the first state Guard to be partnered with three African nations. It has had a relationship with Ghana for a decade. Top Guard officials including Sprynczynatyk traveled to that west African nation in January to celebrate the milestone.

The State Partnership Program has grown to include partnerships with more than 65 countries.

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