AUGUSTA, Maine — The government of Montenegro recognized retired Maj. Gen. John “Bill” Libby during a ceremony Saturday in Augusta for the role he played in forging a building a 5-year-old military partnership between Maine and Montenegro.
During the event at Camp Keyes, Montenegrin Minister of Defence Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic gave Libby a Montenegrin Flag Medal, on President Filip Vujanovic’s authorization.
The link between Maine and Montenegro grew from National Guard’s State Partnership Program, which started in 1993 in response to the fall of the Soviet Union. The program was established to bring together U.S. states and former Communist nations in an attempt to aid the fledgling democracies. There are more than 100 such partnerships today, with some larger states maintaining several.
Maine didn’t get involved in the program until 2007 under Libby’s guidance.
Pejanovic-Djurisic thanked Libby for his assistance and advice and called him a “friend of Montenegro.”
Libby pointed out a number of similarities between the Pine Tree State and Montenegro. The two are similar in size and population. Wealth is largely concentrated on the coast and the militaries are similar in design.
“These partnerships are based on the premise that we will do military-to-military exchanges,” Libby said after the ceremony.
Part of the aim of the partnership program was to provide advice to former Communist nations on how to build a military that is subservient to civilian authorities.
But the military partnership between Maine and Montenegro has led to other collaborations as well.
The Maine National Guard’s work in Montenegro eventually led to an exchange program between the University of Maine and University of Montenegro. The daughter of the Montenegrin president even studied at the University of Maine a few years back, according to Libby.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and representatives from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins’ and Olympia Snowe’s offices also attended the event, and Libby urged the politicians to continue federal funding for these partnership programs.
“There’s some real payback that comes out of this in terms of helping countries like Montenegro understand what democracy is all about,” Libby said.