The President of the Republic of Latvia bestows rare medal to Col. J. Andrew Roberts

September 23, 2016 -- LANSING, Mich. --

The President of the Republic of Latvia, Raimonds Vejonis, presented the prestigious Order of Viesturs medal to Col. J. Andrew Roberts, commander of the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and former bilateral affairs officer to Latvia, Friday, Sept. 23, at the Michigan National Guard, Joint Forces Readiness Center in Lansing.

The Order of Viesturs is presented 'only' by the President of the Republic of Latvia. The award was founded in 1938 to honor the existence of the Latvian State. The motto of the Order is "Confortamini et pugnate" which means "Be strong and fight." It is a symbol of recognition for merits in nurturing and cultivating the nation's armed forces, in safeguarding and strengthening national security and social order, defense of the country's borders and promoting Latvian patriotism - all characteristics Roberts was recognized for during his service as bilateral affairs officer to Latvia in 2012 and 2013.

Roberts earned his commission as an aviator in the U.S. Navy at the University of Michigan. He left active duty service in 1999 and joined the Michigan Air National Guard while employed as a pilot for United Airlines. He flew with the 171st Airlift Squadron during the initial incursion into Iraq then with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in 2004 accepted command of the Grayling Air Gunnery Range where he trained and qualified as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller and schoolhouse instructor for the Navy Seal JTAC course at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. From 2005 to 2011 Roberts was the Operations Group commander at Alpena CRTC then in 2012 he was selected as the Michigan National Guard Bilateral Affairs Officer in Latvia. In August 2014, he assumed command of the Alpena CRTC.

The Michigan National Guard led the way in building a strong State Partnership bond with Latvia in 1993, after the Soviet Union's stronghold crumbled in 1991. The U.S. Department of Defense established the State Partnership Program to promote stability, enhance military capability, improve interoperability and enhance the principles of responsible governance among struggling Baltic Nations and assigned program management to the National Guard Bureau.

In 1993, the NGB established the first nine State Partnerships including the one between Michigan and Latvia. Less than 90 days after the ink was dry on the partnership agreement, seven Michigan Guardsmen traveled to Latvia to begin the first of many military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals. An estimated 40,000 former Soviet soldiers and an unknown number of Soviet security agents remained in Latvia when the first group of Michigan Guard troops arrived. Over the past 23 years the bonds built between Latvia and Michigan have continued to grow and flourish with many 'firsts' being accomplished on both sides of the partnership.

After presenting the award, President Vejonis traveled to the Latvian Center in Kalamazoo (kalamazoolatvians.com) and to the Chicago Latvian Community Center (chicagolatvianassociation.com) before returning to New York for the completion of the UN General Assembly summit.

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