Senior leaders visit Tajikistan as Va. Guard commemorates 10 years of partnership

Brig. Gen. Wayne Wright presents a certificate of recognition to Acting DCM Wes Robertson Aug. 21, 2013, at the United States Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The visit marked the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Guard’s partnership with Tajikistan under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. (Contributed photo)

Brig. Gen. Wayne Wright presents a certificate of recognition to Acting DCM Wes Robertson Aug. 21, 2013, at the United States Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The visit marked the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Guard’s partnership with Tajikistan under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. (Contributed photo)

SANDSTON, Va. — Three Virginia National Guard senior leaders traveled to Tajikistan in August as part of the Virginia National Guard’s partnership with the Central Asian republic under the National Guard State Partnership Program.

Brig. Gen. Wayne A. Wright, Deputy Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard, Col. Jeffrey Hice, deputy commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia Guard senior enlisted leader, traveled to Dushanbe Aug. 19-21 where they met with embassy officials, senior leaders of the Tajik military, observed demonstrations from the Tajikistan troops and saw first-hand the positive impact of the state partnership with Tajikistan

The visit also served to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Virginia’s partnership with Tajikistan under the SPP. Wright presented a certificate of recognition signed by Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker to Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Wes Robertson.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia Guard senior enlisted leader, presents coins to two Tajik soldier/bakers during his visit to Dushanbe, Tajikistan Aug. 19-21. It was Green’s first visit to Tajikistan and he said he came away impressed by both the people and their culture. (Contributed photo)

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia Guard senior enlisted leader, presents coins to two Tajik soldier/bakers during his visit to Dushanbe, Tajikistan Aug. 19-21. It was Green’s first visit to Tajikistan and he said he came away impressed by both the people and their culture. (Contributed photo)

“General Wright made an excellent impression on our Tajik partners,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Ritchie, the director of the Virginia Guard State Partnership Program. “His visit demonstrates the seriousness with which the Virginia National Guard takes our partnership with Tajikistan, and how seriously we regard the joint force.”The Tajik military spent decades using the Russian military model. But after 10 years of partnership with Virginia, Tajik troops have a better understanding of how the U.S. military works.

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

“They don’t have a lot but what they do have, they take good care of,” Green said of the Tajik troops. “They’re very fit, strong and determined. They have limited resources but they’re coming around and we saw some very positive things.”

The Virginia leaders brought along several gifts from the Old Dominion. Green presented National Guard watches to two of the top Tajik military leaders. He also provided coins to two of the soldier/bakers who baked the bread for their meals.

It was Green’s first visit to Tajikistan and he was impressed by the people and the culture.

“When you’re in Afghanistan, you don’t know what’s right around the corner,” he said. “Here, you felt very safe. The people were friendly and accommodating.”