Winchester-based 3-116th Soldiers travel to Tajikistan to share military skills, experience

The group of Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team who traveled to Tajikistan April 9-17 as part of the State Partnership Program. From left to right: Staff Sgt. Nicholas Castrinos, Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Gause, Capt. Adam Frost, Lt. Col Matthew Ritchie and Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Ferris. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Guard State Partnership Program)

The group of Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team who traveled to Tajikistan April 9-17 as part of the State Partnership Program. From left to right: Staff Sgt. Nicholas Castrinos, Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Gause, Capt. Adam Frost, Lt. Col Matthew Ritchie and Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Ferris. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Guard State Partnership Program)

SANDSTON, Va. — As part of the Virginia National Guard State Partnership Program, a group of Soldiers from the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team traveled to Dushanbe, Tajikistan in April for a six-day information exchange focused on introducing Tajik servicemembers to the U.S. Army Military Decision Making Process and developing leadership skills at the platoon and company levels.

Capt. Adam Frost, Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Ferris, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Castrinos, Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis and Staff Sgt. Jimmy Gause from the 3-116th joined Lt. Col. Matthew Ritchie, Virginia Guard SPP Director for the mission April 9-17.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis of the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team works with a Tajik soldier on individual movement during a six-day information exchange to Dushanbe, Tajikistan April 9-17, 2013. The trip was designed to introduce Tajik servicemembers to the U.S. Army Military Decision Making Process and develop leadership skills at the platoon and company levels. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Guard State Partnership Program)

Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis of the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team works with a Tajik soldier on individual movement during a six-day information exchange to Dushanbe, Tajikistan April 9-17, 2013. The trip was designed to introduce Tajik servicemembers to the U.S. Army Military Decision Making Process and develop leadership skills at the platoon and company levels. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Guard State Partnership Program)

The group worked with 25 warrant officers from the 1209th Tajikistan Peacekeeping Battalion at Shamsi Base, Dushanbe. The exchange began with an introduction to individual movement techniques before transitioning to team and squad-level movements. It concluded with a day-long training session on urban operations followed by a squad-sized assault of a building. In the Tajik military, a warrant officer is analogous to a noncommissioned officer in the American military. They are Soldiers who have voluntarily extended their commitment beyond their conscription, and are considered professional Soldiers (kontraktniki).

While some of the unit’s commissioned officers participated in small numbers and for short durations, the focus of the exchange was on the warrant officers. The Virginia Guard Soldiers earned high praise from the new battalion commander for their dedication and respect for Tajik Soldiers.

“After working with this unit, I have great respect for the Tajik PKO Battalion,” said Gause. “They have great enthusiasm, and always seek improvement. The UN will get a fine peacekeeping asset.” Gause, an Army Combatives instructor, learned first-hand the fighting skill of the average Tajik soldier.

In addition to their time with the PKO Battalion, the Virginians visited Suovorov Military Lyceum, a local high school, where they toured the facility, played sports with the cadets, and participated in an informal discussion.

The Virginia National Guard has engaged primarily with the PKO Battalion since March 2012. In eight different missions in 2012, Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen engaged in topics such as first aid, leader development, individual and small unit tactics, peacekeeping duties, and tactical communications.

The Virginia-Tajikistan partnership started in 2003, with the first exchange in early 2004. Since then dozens of Virginia Guardsmen and hundreds of Tajik Soldiers have participated in these exchanges.