Gearing Up


Soldiers of the 26th Yankee Brigade, Massachusetts National Guard, assist the Military Division of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in gathering fire-retardant gear such as helmets, jackets, pants, vests and gloves from fire departments throughout Massachusetts during the month of July 2022 to donate to Paraguay. Paraguay has been Massachusetts National Guard’s State Partner under the State Partnership Program for more than 20 years.

The gear was donated to the Military Division by Massachusetts fire departments in Ayer, Bedford, Barnstable, Devens, Harwich, Hingham, Milton, North Attleboro, Rehoboth, Salisbury, Saugus, West Bridgewater, Westford and Yarmouth.

“The country (Paraguay) is in dire need of firefighter gear, specifically ‘turnout gear’ which are the fire-retardant jacket and pants that our firefighters use here in the U.S.,” said Capt. Christopher McCrobie, Massachusetts National Guard State Partnership Program Manager. “They don’t have the resources that we have. Our gear falls out of NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) standards every ten years, even if it was never or lightly used. This was an easy way for fire departments to have a lot of excess gear they can’t use anymore due to regulatory standards, but gear that may have never been touched, to donate to our Military Division, so they can in turn give it to Paraguay.”

The 26th MEB was tasked with the mission at the end of June in order to support the SPP program.

“This is an ongoing mission that will continue until we have picked up all the gear that is being donated from different departments around the state of Massachusetts,” said Capt. Sarah Somma, Homeland Response Force Officer-in-Charge, 26th MEB. “The gear is donated to the Military Division, and we assist with the logistics (pick up, inventory, and packaging) of the gear before it gets air loaded to arrive in Paraguay.”

The State Partnership Program is managed by National Guard Bureau and executed by the State Adjutant Generals to promote long-term, enduring and mutually beneficial security relationships with friendly and allied nations around the globe under the authorities provided by the Department of Defense and Congress 

The SPP matches a National Guard state with a foreign partner country to exchange military skills and experience, share defense knowledge, and enhance partnership capacity and further mutual security cooperation.

“Our two partners, Paraguay and Kenya, are very important to us,” said McCrobie. “We have had a long-standing partnership with Paraguay since 2001. We have built up many professional and personal relationships with them through years of engagements. We’ve engaged and learned from one another on multiple areas: key leader engagements, non-commissioned officer development, engineering, disaster response and recovery, firefighting and more. Being able to provide our partner nation with gear that they’ll use on a day-to-day basis to fight their local structure fires as well as their frequent forest fires is a huge success for both us and Paraguay.

Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Laura Berry

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