March 25, 2010

Virginia reinforces partnership with Tajikistan

By Capt. Matt Nowak
Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers completed a three-week visit to Tajikistan March 12 where they took part in high level discussions about the country’s security and military objectives as well as trained and mentored junior leaders in the Tajik military. The trip was the latest in a series of activities designed to strengthen the state partnership program between the Virginia Guard and Tajikistan.

  183rd RTI in Tajikistan

Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Jones of the Virginia National Guard's 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute conducts a class to a group of junior leaders from Tajikistan during a trip to Tajikistan Feb. 27 to March 12. Jones covered topics in counseling, risk management, troop leading procedures and tactics with the focus on having the Tajikistan soldiers putting their own spin on the exercise. (Photo by Master Sgt. Matt Webster, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute)

Click HERE to download a high resolution version of this photo.

Tajikistan, once part of the Soviet Union, is located in Central Asia, directly north of Afghanistan, and has a land mass slightly smaller than Wisconsin. The Virginia Guard has become a trusted mentor and partner for Tajikistan’s military since they became partners in 2004.

Lt. Col. Bill Mahoney, Virginia State Partnership Program coordinator, recently attended an Action Officer Working Group in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, to discuss numerous big picture topics. Attendees included representatives from United States Central Command, U.S. Army Central, the U.S. State Department, and officials from Tajikistan’s Ministry of Defense, border guards, National Guard and Committee of Emergency Situation. Most of the discussions revolved around security and the group also reviewed Tajikistan’s strategic military to military objectives. It finished with planning events and meetings during the 2011 calendar year to ensure the partnership stays active.

“Virginia’s involvement in the State Partnership Program directly fits into CENTCOM’s and the State Department’s long term strategic plan for Tajikistan,” Mahoney stated. “Virginia has a strong partnership with Tajikistan and we look forward to continue building relationships with their junior leaders and staff officers and continue mentoring on topics regarding peace keeping operations.”

Virginia’s involvement in the partnership program included military to military objectives. A significant topic was Tajikistan’s future role in potentially sending a unit to take part in United Nations peacekeeping operations, similar to what units from Virginia did in Kosovo in 2007.

“Since the partnership began, Tajikistan soldiers have learned more English and have improved their leadership skills and professional development,” Mahoney said. “They have been making a consistent effort to learn from us.”

Other than the Action Officer Working Group, the non-commissioned officers were given the opportunity to meet with some of Tajikistan’s junior leaders.

In early March, a group of non-commissioned officers from the Virginia Guard's 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute visited some of Tajikistan’s best junior leaders to conduct a seminar equal to what is included in a U.S. Army basic non-commissioned officer course.

  183rd RTI in Tajikistan

Lt. Col. Bill Mahoney, Virginia State Partnership Program coordinator, gives senior members of the Tajikistan Army a 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute coin and patch. Mahoney gave the coins and patches as a symbol of appreciation and continued partnership between the Virginia Guard and Tajikistan. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Jones, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute)

Click HERE to download a high resolution version of this photo.

The Guardsmen mentored about 21 Tajik soldiers from their emergency services, cadet corps and Ministry of Defense. Their main point reinforced how non-commissioned officers play a role in the army, since their structure is very different from the American military rank structure.

The RTI Soldiers lead exercises in counseling, risk management, troop leading procedures and tactics with the focus on having the Tajikistan soldiers putting their own spin on the exercises.

“Since it started in 2004 the soldiers are much more open and not as tight lipped,” Master Sgt. Matt Webster noted. “They were very engaging and vey open. They seemed to enjoy the instruction. The program has really been a benefit for them.”

This was the fifth trip for Webster, who has seen a noticeable difference in the knowledge and professional growth of the Tajikistan soldiers. “The Tajiks are looking at us to help mentor and develop their junior leadership,” Webster said. “You can see a significant difference in the students since 2004.”

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