DUSHANBE, Tajikistan - Three Virginia National Guard Soldiers participated in a marksmanship exchange with female members of the Tajik National Police Sept. 5-9.
The exchange supported the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. Virginia and Tajikistan have been partners in the program since 2003, although this was the first exchange in the partnership that focused solely on female Tajik soldiers.
Ten women assigned to the Tajik National Police, primarily as snipers, participated. The VNG Team of Sgt. 1st Class Tony Hancock and Sgt. 1st Class Chad Stigall, both marksmanship instructors assigned to the Fort Barfoot-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, and Staff Sgt. Nancy Palacios, assigned to the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat team, shared their more than 25 years of combined experience as they trained on basic marksmanship and sniper proficiency.
“The Tajik all-women’s marksmanship exchange was a great opportunity to showcase several strengths of the Virginia Army National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. K. Weedon Gallagher, VNG assistant adjutant general - Army. “Our commitment to our SPP with Tajikistan, the tactical expertise of our Regional Training Institute instructors and the professionalism of our noncommissioned officer corps, most especially our female NCOs.”
One of those female NCOs, Palacios, relished the opportunity.
“This was my first time in Tajikistan,” said Palacios. “The experience overall was very informative. Some of the female soldiers had plenty of experience. Others improved their skills once the exchange was complete.”
Capt. Kevin Eddins, the VNG SPP coordinator, said the exchange covered range estimations, zeroing, basic sniper firing positions and range cards.
“At the end of the week, the Tajik soldiers participated in a competition shooting targets at the 1,000-, 700- and 300-meter marks,” Eddins said. “In all, the snipers proved to be very skilled, and their marksmanship skills improved greatly through the instruction of the VNG instructors.”
Palacios assisted marksmanship instructors Hancock and Stigall with the hands-on portion of the training.
“This meant coaching the least-experienced females on both weapon systems,” said Palacios. “I also assisted with setting up some of the targets for the hands-on portion. The Tajik females are very welcoming, humble and open-minded. They were very receptive of the information being provided to them by Sgt. 1st Class Stigall and Sgt. 1st Class Hancock. They also shared their military experiences and cultural beliefs and traditions.”
At the end of the four-day exchange, the Tajik women showcased their talents and newly acquired knowledge during a shooting competition.
“I enjoyed my time in Tajikistan and thought these females were really motivated to hone and craft their skills as snipers,” said Hancock.
Those involved said they hope the exchange can continue in Virginia.
“Thanks to the fantastic training developed and implemented by our RTI instructors, our friends in Tajikistan wish to advance to follow on modules of marksmanship training at Fort Barfoot, Virginia,” said Gallagher.
In July, the VNG and Tajikistan celebrated the 20th anniversary of their formal partnership in the 30-year-old State Partnership Program. They have shared expertise in 200 engagements to counter terrorism, deter violent extremism, expand emergency response capabilities, develop professionalism and promote shared values in national sovereignty and security.