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NEWS | June 17, 2022

Virginia National Guard Soldiers Conduct Mountain Warfare Exchange in Tajikistan

By Mike Vrabel, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

ROMIT, Tajikistan – Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 91st Cyber Brigade conducted a mountain warfare and advanced tactical planning exchange with soldiers from the Republic of Tajikistan.

The exchange May 16-20 supported the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. Virginia and Tajikistan have been partners under the program 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. Over five days in Romit, the team shared experiences and best practices for mountain warfare with 50 Tajikistan soldiers. 

“I appreciated how enthusiastic the Tajiks were to learn,” said Bastillo. “The experience has definitely enabled me to grow exponentially by learning from the Tajiks and through the soldiers who also participated in the exchange.”

The advanced tactical planning exchange, held simultaneously, was led 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,” said Maj. Andre Slonopas, a Ranger with Command Sgt. Maj. Brodie Kirkland, the 91st Cyber Brigade operations sergeant major. 

Team members hope the exchange will be a building block for future meetings. 

“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.”