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NEWS | Sept. 29, 2023

VNG marksmanship experts conduct historic exchange in Tajikistan

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Three Virginia National Guard Soldiers participated in marksmanship exchange with female members of Tajik National Police Sept. 5-9, 2023, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The exchange was conducted in support of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, in which Virginia and Tajikistan have been partners since 2003.

The exchange was the first in the partnership which focused solely on female Tajik soldiers. Ten women assigned to the Tajik National Police, primarily as snipers, participated in the exchange. 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, provided their more than 25 years of combined experience to the Tajik soldiers 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 to travel to Tajikistan and help with the exchange. 

“This was my first time in Tajikistan,” said Palacios. “The experience overall was very informative. Some of the female soldiers had plenty of experience, other improved their skills once the exchange was complete.”

“The exchange was mostly focused on the basics of marksmanship which encompassed topics such as range estimations, zeroing, basic sniper firing positions and range cards,” said Capt. Kevin Eddins, the VNG SPP coordinator. “At the end of the week, the Tajik soldiers participated in a competition shooting targets at the 1,000, 700 and 300-meter marks. In all, the snipers proved to be very skilled, and their marksmanship skills improved greatly through the instruction of the VNG instructors.”

During the exchange, Palacios assisted marksmanship instructors Hancock and Stigall with the hands-on portion of the training, during which she was also able to learn from the Tajik women. 

“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 were able to showcase their talents and newly-acquired knowledge during a shooting competition. Their performance impressed the VNG instructors. 

“I enjoyed my time in Tajikistan and thought these females were really motived to hone and craft their skills as snipers,” said Hancock. 

Despite the success of the exchange, those involved said they could have spent even more time with the Tajik shooters, and hope the exchange can eventually 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.  

“I am honored to have been selected to attend this exchange and be surrounded by the impressive group of females,” added Palacios. “I strongly believe we should give those females a chance to visit our school house in Virginia to continue the exchange.”

In July 2023, the VNG and Tajikistan celebrated the 20th anniversary of their formal partnership in the State Partnership Program, which itself just celebrated its 30-year anniversary. The relationship has benefitted all parties, from sharing subject matter expertise throughout 200 military-to-military engagements that help counter terrorism, deter violent extremism, expand emergency response capabilities, develop professionalism among leaders and staffs and promote shared values in national sovereignty and security.

Read more about the State Partnership Program at

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