Oct. 1, 2011

Virginia troops meet with Tajik border guards during SPP trip

From Staff Reports

SANDSTON, Va.. — A group of Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard traveled to Tajikistan Aug. 8-16 to advise the Tajik Border Guard on how to reduce the threat of narcotics trafficking along the Afghan border. The two officers and four noncommissioned officers advised the TBG in designing and implementing an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance plan that concentrated on a U.S.-provided Unmanned Ground Sensor System border in the Pianj and Hamadoni districts of Khatlon Province.


Virginia National Guard Soldiers pose for a photo with the Virginia state flag at the Tajikistan/Afghanistan border. The Soldiers are (clockwise from the center)- 1st Lt. Artur Taryan, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Whaley, 1st Lt. Devan A. Nicely, Sgt. Brian T. Dawson, Staff Sgt. Sandor Asboth and Staff Sgt. Brian K. Tuck. (Courtesy Photo)

The trip was part of the State Partnership Program, which links U.S. states and partner nations in support of mutual interests. The goal of the program is to enhance combatant commanders’ ability to establish enduring relationships and build partner capacity through security cooperation activities that meet U.S. and partner nation objectives. The partnership between Virginia and the Republic of Tajikistan was formally established in October 2003.

The Soldiers who traveled to Tajikistan for the engagement were 1st Lt. Artur Taryan, 180th Engineer Company; 1st Lt. Devan A. Nicely and Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Whaley from HHC, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment; Staff Sgt. Brian K. Tuck, Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment; Staff Sgt. Sandor Asboth, Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment; and Sgt. Brian T. Dawson, HHC, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.   

Once they arrived in Tajikistan, the group’s objective changed from terrain analysis and UGSS emplacement to technical assistance and maintenance. The mission was an overall success due to the team’s flexibility, knowledge and professionalism, according to Lt. Col. Matthew Ritchie, SPP director for the Virginia National Guard.  

The group members spent most of their time visiting border outposts, some of which were very secluded and required four wheel drive vehicles, where they inspected system emplacement and employment. The team was able to provide several key recommendations to improve the overall efficacy of the system through their combined technical knowledge. The recommendations ensured that the border guards were using the system to its fullest capability possible.

Within only one to two months of system fielding, it was clear to the team that the Tajik Border Guards already had a solid basic understanding of the system and generally only needed more advanced system advice.

Ritchie assessed the mission as a success, as did the U.S. Embassy Office of Defense Cooperation.

“The TBG had a good understanding of placement of the UGSS," Ritchie said. “Their knowledge of past and current narcotics trafficking activity put the TBG officers in a good position to select the best sensor sites. The TBG routinely use innovation to combine elements of the UGSS to improve overall border security.”

The team met with several Tajikistan Border Guard commanding officers who praised the overall U.S. assistance and looked forward to more exchanges and further assistance with securing their border. They pledged continued UGSS use and ensured they would make progress. Further U.S. engagements will continue to advise, both tactically and technically, and check progress.

“It is no surprise that Tajikistan is a key gateway for drugs being smuggled out of Afghanistan and securing the border is internationally critical,” Ritchie said. “With continued proper employment, familiarity and progression, the UGSS can be a critical combat multiplier by concentrating efforts and saving ground the border foot patrols must cover.”

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