November 8, 2021
Ambassador Byrnes remarks for SFAB Opening Ceremony
Minister Shekerinska, General Emini, Colonel Lafchiski, Colonel Born, I’m thrilled to be here to mark a significant milestone in the defense cooperation relationship between our two countries. For well over two decades, the United States has been committed to assisting North Macedonia modernize and develop its Army to be more capable and interoperable with U.S. and NATO forces. The Vermont National Guard has trained with and deployed alongside your soldiers for 28 years. In addition to funding equipment modernization, the United States has sent thousands of officers and civilians from North Macedonia to our military schoolhouses. That type of in-person and side by side learning and training, such as the SFAB team here, contributes greatly to enhanced interoperability and success.
Last year, North Macedonia achieved its strategic goal of joining NATO, becoming the 30th member of the greatest alliance in history. Membership, of course, is not the end of the journey; rather it is the beginning of the next phase of the North Macedonia’s development and of our bilateral defense cooperation. Now that you are a member of the alliance, your country must and will be a security contributor, able to deliver capable forces to the NATO force pool, and ready to respond in support of the alliance. There is a lot of work to be done in the coming years, beginning with the combat readiness evaluation you all will participate in next year. The United States remains committed to supporting your efforts and you see that commitment here today with the presence of soldiers from the 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade.
This is the first time the U.S. Army has employed the Security Force Assistance Brigade in Europe. As senior leaders considered where to best employ the SFAB, it is no surprise that one of the five countries they chose was North Macedonia. This is a critical time as you go through a historic military modernization and transformation to meet NATO Capability Targets. More importantly however, it is a reflection of the superb reputation that North Macedonia’s officers, NCOs, and soldiers have as ready, willing, and capable partners.
To the soldiers of 4th SFAB, you will play a pivotal role in North Macedonia’s journey toward full Euro-Atlantic integration. I know that your time here takes you away from your family and friends back home, and I thank you for making that sacrifice and for your service to the nation as you undertake this critical mission that supports our partnership and commitment to North Macedonia. While you are here, I encourage you to explore this amazing country. The food, the people, and the nature are all extraordinary and I know you will come to love it as much as I have.
Euro-Atlantic integration has been the aspiration of the citizens of North Macedonia for 30 years. The United States has stood with you as you have pursued your entrance into NATO and the EU and we will continue to partner with all those who share this vision for the country. We are stronger together, moving forward together.