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SD leaders boost partnership with Suriname

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Leaders from the South Dakota governor's office and the state National Guard say a recent visit to Suriname helped strengthen ties between the state and the South American country.

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The Defense Department-sponsored partnership was established about seven years ago and numerous exchanges have since taken place to develop military, political, social and economic ties. Lt. Gov. Matt Michels and state Guard commander Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch visited the country late last month and met with several officials including Suriname President Desi Bouterse and Jay Anania, the U.S. ambassador to the country.

"South Dakota's partnership with Suriname has become widely known as one of the most active and enduring partnerships of any state or territory," Reisch said in a statement. "In spite of changes in civil or military leadership, the partnership has continued to strengthen year after year."

Examples cited by officials include South Dakota soldiers taking part in a humanitarian health care mission in Suriname in 2008 and Suriname soldiers coming to South Dakota to observe crisis operations during Missouri River flooding in 2011.

"I think we get more out of these types of programs than we give," Michels said. "I look at the South Dakota National Guard individuals who have been involved down here and have developed very long relationships. These relationships transcend governments, ambassadors, or anyone who is rotating through. This program is a rare constant."

Some South Dakota Guard soldiers carried U.S. and state flags in Suriname's National Day parade. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that the presence of the South Dakota color guard "underscores the ties of friendship between the people of Suriname and the United States."