January 28, 2004
Tajikistan military visits Virginia Guard
Maj. Neal Edmonds
The Virginia National Guard hosted the first official visit by the military of the Republic of Tajikistan on Jan. 15 at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston.
During their trip to the United States to view the training of US Army aviators at Ft. Rucker and aircraft mechanics at Ft. Eustis, the six Tajikistani military officers were offered the opportunity to witness first hand the end result of that training. After completing their visit at Ft. Eustis, a Virginia Army National Guard UH-60 crewed by CW4 Frank Northrop, CW2 Eddie Clendening, and Sgt. First Class Paul Kagi flew the Tajikistani delegation, escorted by Capt. Larry Waller (ARCENT), to Richmond International Airport and the Virginia Guard's AASF.
Col. Simpson and his staff welcomed Col. Kizilboy Tovbaev, Lt. Col. Igor Tokarenko, Capt. Mahmadsaid Kholaliev, Capt. Artur Mirozev, Senior Lt. Dilovarsho Muhitdinov, and Senior Lt. Sukhrob Sharipov, of the Ministry of Defense of Tajikistan. Their welcome began with a National Guard aviation video and a hands-on Aviation Life Support Equipment (ALSE) briefing by CW4 Jim McGuffey that was highlighted by a Night Vision Goggle demonstration that thoroughly impressed the guests.
Following the operations briefing the delegation was escorted to the AASF hanger by Lt. Col. Bob Tamplet to see some of Army's the finest aircraft mechanics in action. A UH-60 briefing was followed by a question and answer session with Sgt. Billy Sells, a Black Hawk Crew Chief assigned to B Co, 2 nd Bn (ASSLT), 224 th Aviation.
Not to be outdone by the versatile UH-60, a flight crew from the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force's Reconnaissance and Aerial Interdiction Detachment (RAID) were standing by to brief the delegation on the capabilities of its OH-58. Capt. Carl Engstrom and CW4 Don Hicks impressed the Tajikistani delegation with a briefing covering their aircraft's unique counterdrug equipment.
The visit concluded with comments by Simpson and Tovbaev both professing hope for future exchanges between our militaries. Small tokens of appreciation and respect were exchanged and the delegation was flown back to Ft. Eustis to prepare for their long trip back to Tajikistan.
This highly successful first interaction between the Virginia National Guard and the Tajikistani military has set an extremely positive example for future cooperation and visits both here in Virginia and in Tajikistan.