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News | June 14, 2022

VNG Soldiers conduct mountain warfare, tactical planning exchanges in Tajikistan

By Mike Vrabel Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Bowling Green-based 91st Cyber Brigade conducted a mountain warfare exchange and an advanced tactical planning exchange with soldiers from the Republic of Tajikistan May 16 - 20, 2022, in Romit, Tajikistan.

The exchanges were conducted in support of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, in which Virginia and Tajikistan have been partners since 2003.

First Lt. Edward Olbrych and 2nd Lt. Miguel Bastillo, both assigned to the 91st, helped lead the Mountain Warfare exchange with a Vermont National Guard Soldier assigned to the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School. 50 Tajikistan soldiers learned the basics of mountain warfare over five days in Romit. The team shared their experiences, lessons learned and best practices for mountain warfare with their Tajik partners. 

“I appreciated how enthusiastic the Tajiks were to learn,” said Bastillo, who also commended them for using their extra time to practice tying knots and other skills in between classes. “The experience has definitely enabled me to grow exponentially by learning from the Tajiks and through the soldiers who also participated in the exchange.”

While the mountain warfare exchange was happening, so was an advanced tactical planning exchange. Lead by two Rangers and one special forces-qualified 91st Cyber Soldier, up to 20 Tajik Soldiers learned and practiced advanced tactical mission planning.

“We were enthralled that we are able to share knowledge and experience and be part of this unique exchange with a foreign nation,” said Maj. Waldon Jue.

“These opportunities really helped us fine tune our long-term relationships and we hope to come back in the near future,” added ” Maj. Andre Slonopas, a Ranger along with Command Sgt. Maj. Brodie Kirkland, the the 91st Cyber Brigade operations sergeant major. 

The team’s hope is that this will be a building block for future exchanges. 

“I appreciated the input, feedback, and knowledge shared among Tajik and U.S. Soldiers,” said Kirkland. “This experience has enabled the team to grow exponentially by learning not only from the Tajiks but through the members of the group.”