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NEWS | Dec. 16, 2022

West Virginia Guard Hosts Irregular Warfare Planning Conference

By Maj. Holli Nelson, West Virginia National Guard

KINGWOOD, W.Va. – The West Virginia National Guard’s Ridge Runner Irregular Warfare program hosted an exercise planning conference Dec. 5-7 with representatives of U.S. Army special operations forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, U.S. Marine Corps Advisor Company A, and the Polish Territorial Defense Forces.

Ridge Runner is a West Virginia Army National Guard training program that provides National Guard, active duty and NATO allied nations training in irregular and asymmetrical warfare tactics and operations.

In June, Ridge Runner will host its first validation exercise for the 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. The goal is to provide U.S. Special Operations Command with the premier Irregular Warfare Training Center capable of simulating complex special warfare multidomain environments to exercise and validate special operations forces and support joint force commanders worldwide.

Partner nation forces from Europe will train alongside the 5-19th SFG during the exercise throughout West Virginia.

“This is my first experience with Ridge Runner and the same for our company,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Cody (name withheld for privacy). “Our battalion commander has outlined key tasks that he wants us to accomplish, especially in the irregular warfare realm, and getting that foundation for operating with partner nations that we will see downrange is key.”

During the planning conference, attendees refined scenarios, scope, logistics, timelines and training lanes to meet key objectives for the 5-19th SFG and partner nations participating in the exercise.

West Virginia National Guard Sgt. Maj. Jason Smith, deputy director of the Ridge Runner program, said West Virginia is the perfect location for the exercise.

“West Virginia is an almost mirror image to the overall terrain and climate throughout Eastern Europe,” he said. “Hosting the Ridge Runner program here makes perfect sense, allowing U.S. troops the opportunity to operate together with our allies and share in their expertise in as close an environment as possible to our real-world missions.”

The Polish Territorial Defense Forces participated in the planning and will send an element of the POL TDF to the exercise.

“This has been one of the best relationships the POL TDF has ever established with a partner nation,” said 2nd Lt. Marek Zaluski, executive officer for the POL TDF. “We did not know coming here in 2019 [for Ridge Runner] and building this relationship how real life would verify it. Here we are 10 months into the invasion of our neighbor (Ukraine), and we are getting ready to prevent such things from happening within the NATO territories. We are grateful and proud to be working with the West Virginia National Guard, the 19th SFG and the entire National Guard and U.S. armed forces family on such an important endeavor.”

The PTDF participated in exercise Ridge Runner in 2019 alongside the Latvian Zemmessardze, learning irregular and unconventional warfare tactics from West Virginia’s 2nd Battalion, 19th SFG (Airborne).

The Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program coordinates partner nation participation in the Ridge Runner program. The SPP links states and territories with partner countries to foster mutual interests, enhance U.S. national security and promote political stability.



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