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Tongan state partnership program ally retires

Nevada Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Bill Burks, left, meets with Tongan Brig. Gen. Tau’aika ‘Uta’atu in Tonga on Dec. 18 before a farewell military parade that marked 'Uta'atu's more than four decades of military service.

Nevada Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Bill Burks, left, meets with Tongan Brig. Gen. Tau’aika ‘Uta’atu in Tonga on Dec. 18 before a farewell military parade that marked 'Uta'atu's more than four decades of military service.

TALIAI MILITARY CAMP, Tonga -- One of the Nevada National Guard's top military allies in the Pacific Rim region of the world, Brig. Gen. Tau'aika 'Uta'atu of Tonga's armed forces, retired in December. His retirement was marked with a farewell military parade here December 18 that was attended by military and civilian dignataries from serveral countries, including Nevada Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Bill Burks.

'Uta'atu, the chief of Tonga's defense staff, was the military official who formalized the state partnership program pact between the Nevada National Guard and Tonga in April. 'Uta'atu, who visited Nevada in August, served 41 years in Tonga's defense services and had been the nation's top military official since 2000.

Col. Tupoulo'a 'Ulukala succeeds 'Uta'atu as the commander of Tonga's defense services.

"It was a pleasure to be invited to Tonga to help recognize Brig. Gen. 'Uta'atu's more than four decades of military service," Burks said. "The Nevada Guard will always remember the vision, foresight and cooperation he displayed as the Nevada Guard and Tonga entered and began their state partnership program relationship.

"We appreciate all of Brig. Gen. 'Uta'atu's efforts to establish and soldify our state partnership program and we look forward to working with Col. 'Ulukal'a for many years in the future as the partnership grows and becomes even stronger."

'Uta'atu  is set to become Tonga's ambassador to the People's Republic of China.

In addition to Burks, military officials from New Zealand, Australia, France, Papua New Guinea and Great Britain attended the farewell military parade.

The National Guard's state partnership program links a state's National Guard with the armed forces of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship. The national SPP was established in 1994 and, with the addition of the Nevada/Tonga partnership, now boasts 68 partnerships including 74 nations around the globe.

Comprised of more than 170 islands, Tonga is located in the south Pacific Ocean and has a population of 106,000. Pacific-Islanders are the fifth-largest demographic in Nevada and account for about 1 percent of Nevada's population.

Upon signing the pact in April, Tonga and Nevada officials said they hoped to conduct 4-6 exchanges per year to share information that both parties can implement in their respective regions.



Matangi Tonga Online contributed to this report.