The Guam National Guard will help Palau prepare for and respond to future disasters, with both governments announcing a newly signed state partnership Monday.

The U.S has been making efforts to strengthen security ties with Palau and other strategically important nations across Micronesia amid Chinese efforts to influence the region and tensions over Taiwan.

“We are stronger together is what I like to say, and that’s really what this partnership is about,” Whipps said.

On Monday, a ceremony was held where President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr., Governor Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, Guam, and The Adjutant General Colonel Mike Cruz, Guam National Guard, signed a historic declaration, marking Palau as a new partner in the Department of Defence National Guard Bureau State Partnership Programme.

President Whipps expressed his gratitude to Governor Leon Guerrero for proposing the partnership during a meeting held on the sidelines of the Joint Committee Meeting in Guam in 2021.

In February, President Whipps received a letter from General Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, informing him that Palau and the Guam National Guard would be the program’s newest partners.

The ceremony took place at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Centre in Koror, Palau. During the event, President Whipps spoke about Guam and Palau’s shared history, including familial ties and centuries-old cultural and economic exchanges.

“We firmly believe that we Islanders must support each other, whether in defending freedom, during natural disasters, or facing any other challenges,” the President stated. “This partnership is crucial as it strengthens our existing relationship.”

President Whipps thanked SEA Tony Whitehead, Senior Enlisted Advisor to Chief of the National Guard Bureau, for making the journey from Washington D.C to participate in the signing ceremony that further solidifies the relationship between Palau and the U.S.

The Department of Defence National Guard Bureau State Partnership Programme fosters a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship by connecting a state or territory’s National Guard with a partner nation.

Palau, a close ally in Free Association with the United States of America, joined the Trust Territories in 1947 and achieved full sovereignty in 1994. Palau and Guam have been geographic, economic, and cultural neighbors for over three thousand years, both being members of the Micronesian Island family.

President Whipps also acknowledged the members of the U.S Armed Forces Veterans Association of Palau.

He praised these veterans for their role in defending freedom and their ongoing efforts to bring Veterans services to Palau after returning home and integrating into the community. The recently signed Compact Review Agreement reflects some of these efforts. While there is still a long way to go, the President stated that it is an excellent first step.

Members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau (Congress), Rubekul Belau (Traditional Leaders), State Governors, personnel from the Guam National Guard, National Guard Bureau, and local residents attended the event. Emceeing the event were Major Marvin Yamada a son of Palau serving with the Washington Air National Guard, and Colonel Sheila Compton-Rivo, chief of joint staff, Guam National Guard.

Staff Sergeant Christina Adelbai, a daughter of Palau serving with the Guam National Guard, read the declaration: “The Guam National Guard and the Republic of Palau are bound in friendship, history, culture, and cooperation through the National Guard State Partnership Programme.”

The president, who is running for re-election this year, said the partnership will help to ensure a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and help Palau and Guam to “be prosperous and live in peace.”

According to Leon Guerrero, the partnership has been in talks for about three years now, with her envisioning Palau as the first of other nations in Micronesia that Guam could make similar partnerships with.

It made sense given the proximity of the islands and their shared history, she said.

National Guard advisor Whitehead said the security partnership is not just about military involvement.

“We talk about things like law enforcement, working with the hospitals, working with the infrastructure of the cities,” Whitehead said.

Guam already has similar partnerships with the Philippines and Hawaii, Cruz said.

The agreement comes on the heels of the renewal of the Compacts of Free Association between Palau and the U.S.