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Pease airmen recognize Manchester Police Department for donation to international mission

U.S. Airmen with the 157th Air Refueling Wing, New Hampshire Air National Guard present the El Salvador Flag to the Manchester Police Department as a tolken of appreciation, February 20, 2014, Manchester, N.H.  The police department donated equipment used in El Salvador in 2013 as part of the N.H. National Guard State Partnership Program. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alec Vargus/Released)

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Airmen with the 157th Air Refueling Wing, New Hampshire Air National Guard present the El Salvador Flag to members of the Manchester Police Department as a token of appreciation, Feb. 20, 2014, at the Manchester Police Department. The Manchester Police Department donated equipment that was used in El Salvador last year as part of the N.H. National Guard State Partnership Program with the country. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alec Vargus/Released)

Manchester, N.H. -- Members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing presented an award to the Manchester Police Department Feb. 20 in appreciation of their contribution to the New Hampshire National Guard State Partnership Program.

The State Partnership Program pairs National Guard units with partner nations in order to build lasting relationships and to foster the mutually beneficial exchange of expertise in the military, civic, business and educational arenas. The New Hampshire National Guard is aligned with the Central American country of El Salvador.

Female members of the 157th Security Forces Squadron traveled to El Salvador last year to conduct a subject matter exchange with female members of the Salvadoran military. The purpose of the mission was to exchange security tactics, procedures and techniques.

When Manchester Police Sgt. Brian O'Keefe learned that the airmen were seeking donations of equipment to use in the exchange and leave to the Salvadoran military, he didn't hesitate to find out what the department could do to help.

"We've always had a working relationship with the National Guard. We had the extendable batons that we retired last year when we were issued tasers," he said. "I approached the Chief and Assistant Chief [of Police], and they decided to donate the equipment to a worthy cause rather than having it sit in a closet. It was a no-brainer."

That exchange included drills such as defensive rifle fighting, baton striking, and defensive knife skills. The equipment donated by the Manchester Police Department, which included more than 100 extendable batons as well as foam training mats, was critical in effectively conducting the drills in a realistic manner.

Chief Master Sgt. Brenda Blonigen participated in the exchange and reflected on the generosity of The Manchester Police Department.

"The donation made an incredible impact. It's very difficult to demonstrate these tactics without the right equipment, and to practice safely without the training mats," she said. We would not have been able to physically perform the drills without their donation."

The award consisted of the flag of El Salvador in a custom frame and engraved with a personalized message thanking the Manchester Police Department. Several members of the department were present to receive the award, including Chief of Police David Mara and Assistant Chief of Police Nick Willard.

Willard, who is a retired Air Force veteran himself, spoke about the importance of a good partnership between the police and National Guard.

"When we learned about the need for equipment, we said that anything we can do, anything we can provide, we will because we understand that their mission is vitally important," said Willard.

Willard went on to speak about the unique skills and abilities that National Guardsmen bring to their communities.

"We have a deep belief in our veterans. When we assess a candidate for employment, the very first thing we assess is veteran status, even before a college degree," he said. Veterans have already served their country, and now they want to serve their community. They bring dedication, discipline, and integrity."

The New Hampshire National Guard conducts several subject matter exchanges with El Salvador every year. Planned events for 2014 include training in medical triage, air traffic control and K-9 police dogs.
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