RICHLAND — To learn how to better secure their country’s most important deepwater port, visitors from Thailand traveled to the baked desert of central Washington, thanks to a program that links Washington National Guardsmen with their counterparts from Asia.
A group of about 25 people Thai bureaucrats, first responders, and U.S. military officials toured the Hammer Training Facility at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation last week. There, they learned about a range of training courses, such as how to scan for traces of radiation to properly scrub down chemical suits after cleaning up a hazardous spill.
Friday’s visit was one of dozens in Washington and Thailand each year through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, which links each of the 50 states with a different country. The program has received little notice but hopes to strengthen military, government and civilian ties between the U.S. and its allies.
“This is all about building relationships from the ground up,” said Army Maj. Wil Johnston, the program director for the Washington National Guard, whose office is at Camp Murray south of Tacoma. “We take what we know and we share it with them. We’re training their trainers so it has that ripple effect.”
Washington has partnered with Thailand since 2002 to help train its civilian and military officials in activities that National Guard units specialize in when they’re not off fighting wars: emergency management, disaster planning, port security, hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction response and airport security.
The partners participated in a string of exercises in February. Thai first responders reacted to hazardous-material spills and mock attacks to the Port of Laem Chabang with a “dirty bomb” a conventional bomb packed with radioactive material.