By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2015 – Denmark’s Defense Ministry honored two senior Defense Department leaders at the Pentagon today for their contributions to the ever-strengthening U.S.-Denmark partnership.
Maj. Gen. Finn Winkler, commander of the Danish Home Guard, presented the Danish Home Guard Meritorious Service Medal to Jessica L. Wright, former undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Frank J. Grass on behalf of Queen Margrethe II.
Danish Home Guard
The Danish Home Guard is a volunteer military organization that serves in Denmark’s defense and support on an unpaid basis.
Tasked with supporting its armed forces nationally and internationally, the Home Guard also supports the police, emergency services and other authorities in carrying out their duties.
The Home Guard has more than 15,000 active members and has army, navy and air force branches.
Memorandum of Agreement
Winkler noted the former undersecretary joined him in signing the U.S.-Denmark Military Reserve Exchange Program memorandum of agreement in December 2012, and “personally supervised the program to make sure it was done right.”
“Secretary Wright has been with this program from the very beginning,” he said, noting that she personally met the first delegation from the Home Guard at the Pentagon in December 2011.
“Since then,” Winkler said, “more than 550 U.S. and Danish soldiers have been participating in each other’s activities. Seen from my perspective, the training output has been colossal.”
None of this would have happened, he said, were it not for the strong support of the U.S. leadership and the hard work of the men and women of the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and other staffs.
“Today’s … work has been the result of willingness in your organization to make this cooperation work,” Winkler said. “You have proven the value of reserve forces in modern times, and your efforts to ensure great opportunities for the U.S. reserve forces have, undoubtedly, created stronger resilience not just in the U.S., but also for partner nations in NATO like Denmark.”
Significance of Award’s Timing
Winkler said the award usually is presented on May 4, the anniversary of Denmark’s liberation from German occupation during World War II.
“During this year,” Winkler said, “it’s the 70th anniversary of the Danish liberation and celebration back home in Denmark next week. The Home Guard has its roots in the resistance movement.”
The U.S. National Guard and the Danish Home Guard have numerous common denominators, he noted. “Both organizations rose from citizens fighting for their beliefs, showing willingness to make a sacrifice for their country and their people, and they are both key players for their nations’ domestic operations,” Winkler said.
After receiving his award, Grass noted the “great relationship” between the United States and Denmark and the importance of building partnerships.
“The partnerships that we bring are so important to our nation,” he said, “and one of the priorities of the Department of Defense is building alliances. This one has just taken off like crazy.”
Grass noted that Denmark is “deploying to just about every operation. You’re there with us in the Balkans [and] over and over with us in Afghanistan,” he said. “But I think for the long term, these [are the] types of training associations that we can do for our men and women [who], in some cases, may or may not ever have another opportunity to engage with another country and learn.”