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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | Aug. 22, 2023

Montana National Guard Hosts Regional Cooperation Exercise

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

HELENA, Mont. - The Montana National Guard hosted an exercise with Guardsmen from five states and international partners to enhance stability and cooperation on counterterrorism and joint, combined capabilities among U.S. and Central and South Asian nations.

More than 230 people from the United States, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and observers from Turkmenistan came together in Helena Aug. 8-18 for Exercise Regional Cooperation 23. 

U.S. Central Command sponsored the annual exercise. 

“Since its inception in 2001, Regional Cooperation has become a key and well-known exercise,” said Guy Zero, the U.S. CENTCOM deputy director for strategy, plans and policy. “This is a tremendous opportunity for all of us to build relationships, share ideas and work together to meet the strategic challenges that face us in this important region.”

In the initial phase of the exercise, advisers from the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade provided instruction on the military decision-making process (MDMP).

“The MDMP class before the exercise was one of the best practices for a combined exercise that helped shape the participants’ idea of internationally recognized MDMP,” said Lt. Col. Tamir Udval, one of the participants from Mongolia.

The exercise officially began Aug. 12 with a scenario that included an unstable, fictitious nation and conflicting, fictitious entities during a six-day, brigade-level command post exercise (CPX).

Participants were integrated into staff sections and, with interpreters, worked through border security challenges, providing humanitarian assistance, countering weapons of mass destruction and ensuring interagency cooperation.

“This exercise has a great history of success in facilitating effective training and has helped improve global military coordination and development,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Hronek, the adjutant general of Montana. “Regional Cooperation 23 provides all participants the opportunity to share military expertise and experiences while building personal and military relationships that cross borders and cultures.”

Participants included about 65 Soldiers and Airmen from the Arizona, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana and Virginia National Guard, most of whom pair with an exercise partner nation through the State Partnership Program. 

The SPP is a Department of Defense National Guard Bureau program that links a state’s National Guard to the armed forces of a partner nation. The 30-year-old program now includes 100 partner nations.

“Participating in Regional Cooperation this year gives us an amazing opportunity to continue our relationship with our partners from Tajikistan,” said Maj. Isaac Rivera, the SPP manager for the Virginia National Guard, partners with Tajikistan since 2003.

The Montana Guard has partnered with Kyrgyzstan since 1996, Arizona with Kazakhstan since 1993, and Mississippi with Uzbekistan since 2012.

“This exercise is really about collaboration and building relationships,” said Maj. Stephen Jung, the lead planner for RC23. “When you spend time working alongside military personnel from a partner nation, what you’ll inevitably find is commonalities. My hope is that, when we leave Montana, we all leave with a better understanding of our partnerships, as well as stronger relationships, not only between our military forces at the higher level, but also at the individual level.”

The first Regional Cooperation was held in 2001, with subsequent annual exercises hosted both in U.S. cities and by participating nations.

“No matter what happens, as long as we’re partners, we will be able to overcome so many obstacles as a group united,” said Col. Peter Fiorentino, a Massachusetts National Guardsman who served as the brigade commander for the exercise. “Thank you very much, and I hope to see and work with you all in the future.”