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News | Feb. 17, 2021

Foreign delegates visit Montana before U.S. CENTCOM event

By Spc. Emily Simonson Montana National Guard

Twelve foreign delegates from Central Asia visited Montana Feb. 1-5 to support an initial planning meeting for exercise REGIONAL COOPERATION 21 (RC21). The visiting delegates were from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

REGIONAL COOPERATION is an annual multilateral exercise the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) hosts with multiple Central and Southern Asian countries to build skills and relationships with other countries.

"Our objective is to help the Central Asian countries to help themselves," said Galen McAllister, State Partnership Program director emeritus and acting in Montana. "So that if a disaster were to strike, they can come to each other's aid."

This meeting is the first of three planning conferences before the actual training event next June.

Montana was selected to host the initial planning conference due to its working ties with Kyrgyzstan under the State Partnership Program. The Montana National Guard will host and provide logistical support for all the planning conferences and the exercise in June.

"The actual event this year will focus on both stability and military operations in a (fictional) country that has a limited infrastructure and a failing government with various internal crises going on," said Lt. Col. Richard Weeks, the lead planner for RC21.

Weeks said the participating nations pick the topics they want to center the exercise around. This year, RC21 will include a pandemic response.

The Feb. 1-5 event was attended by five officials from Tajikistan, six from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan, plus representatives from other countries who participated virtually.

"Cooperation is important. (REGIONAL COOPERATION) is our only exercise with all the Central Asian countries," Weeks said. "The U.S. has a long history of working with multinational coalitions and building cooperation with other countries, and we take this opportunity to extend the offer to Central Asia to bring us into one large exercise. And really, we're one big world, and exercises like this help us understand each other better."

RC21's culminating event in June will be completed using computers rather than with Soldiers in a field training environment.