Just before 9/11, my father asked me along on a grand canoe trip to the Boundary Waters with his Hudson-valley paddling friends. We’d drive from Schenectady in upstate New York to Ely in upstate Minnesota to spend a week exploring that maze of placid waterways in the vast wilderness area between the United States and Canada.

My dad had his one-person canoe, but his friend, Joe Nicolella, needed a tandem canoe partner.

About 100 Soldiers and Airmen from the U.S. National Guard Bureau and the 54 states and territories spent this week in East Tennessee at the Air National Guard’s training and Education Center, learning and networking on the nation’s State Partnership Program.

The workshop prepares partnership managers – usually assigned at a state joint force headquarters – to run effective partnerships and alliances with 83 nations worldwide. NGB offers it once a year and has for the last 25 years of SPP history.

If U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Shepherd ever sets your name on wood you’ll have something hand-crafted to show from your military service.

Sergeant Shepherd is the facilities manager for the Air National Guard’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center located in East Tennessee, but he also supports the center’s faculty and staff by crafting a variety of wooden wall plaques, coin holders, and framed flag boxes, among other work.