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Missouri National Guard member serves dual mission

Staff Sgt. Herastico Pitty-Diaz works as an interpretator for the Panamanian National Police and Frontier Force at Delmar Harvard Elementary School. (Photo by Bill Phelan)

Staff Sgt. Herastico Pitty-Diaz works as an interpretator for the Panamanian National Police and Frontier Force at Delmar Harvard Elementary School. (Photo by Bill Phelan)

LAMBERT IAP -- Staff Sgt. Herastico Pitty-Diaz serves as a member of the 131st Bomb Wing Security Forces Squadron. He works to keep the base and personnel safe by manning the entry control point, checking the identification of everyone who comes on to keep people who don't belong from entering. He also patrols the base to monitor for any suspicious activity. However, this is not his only role within the National Guard. Sergeant Pitty-Diaz serves another mission.

In collaboration with the Missouri National Guard, Sergeant Pitty-Diaz works with the State Partnership Program as a Panamanian translator.

Sergeant Pitty-Diaz has been working with the program for almost two years. He actively got involved after hearing other members talk about it and knew it was something he could do.

"I overheard somebody talking about the program and I made some phone calls to get into it," he said.

Sergeant Pitty-Diaz is a great asset to the State Partnership Program because he is originally from Panama, explained Lt. Col. Rebecca Segovia-Johnson, Missouri State Partnership Program director. They have other Spanish-speaking members within the program, but since there are so many different dialects of the language, having someone who is able to speak with the Panamanian counterparts without any trouble makes a great contribution to the mission. He is also able to help navigate the area when the program members visit Panama since the roads aren't very well marked and he is familiar with some of the areas.

Another positive feature Sergeant Pitty-Diaz brings to the program is his willingness to put forth the effort, said Colonel Segovia Johnson. Not only did he voluntarily seek out this position, but when the topic that he will be translating between the Missourians and Panamanians is out of his realm he will take the time to study the briefings beforehand. But he also works well 'off the cuff.'

"He is very quick on his feet," said Colonel Segovia-Johnson. "And with his SF background, he also has the situational awareness we need when we're in another country."

Colonel Segovia-Johnson said, the State Partnership Program is one out of nine programs established under security cooperation, which is anything to do with foreign policy and promoting security interest between foreign countries. There are 62 foreign countries partnered with states and Missouri is teamed with Panama.

The programs works to provide subject matter experts who have capabilities to share with Panamanian forces and vice versa, added Colonel Segovia-Johnson. Depending on the mission, Panamanians may come to Missouri to learn new skills, or Missourians will visit Panama.

"We have a real purpose to help each other be successful," added Colonel Segovia-Johnson.

One of the most recent State Partnership Program missions, where Sergeant Pitty-Diaz worked as a translator, was Panamanian representatives visiting the Missouri National Guard Counterdrug Drug Demand Reduction Program to learn new ways to present drug education to their youth, and teach the Missouri National Guard new techniques as well.

"He has been very valuable to the State Partnership Program," said Colonel Segovia-Johnson. "He really does a great job for us."

Not only does the Missouri National Guard commend Sergeant Pitty-Diaz on the work he does with the program, but the Panamanian forces also acknowledge how far he has come. He has been featured in multiple newspaper articles during his visits to Panama.

"They feel proud to see someone from their country come back and do good things," said Pitty-Diaz.