By Capt. Holli Nelson
19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG) Special Forces Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) recently completed the first irregular and unconventional warfare training iteration for members of the Polish Territorial Defense Forces and Latvian Zemmessardze as a part of the Ridge Runner program in West Virginia.
Ridge Runner is a WVARNG training program that provides various National Guard, active duty, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally nation armed forces training and experience to in irregular and asymmetrical warfare tactics and operations.
Both nations have newly established national guard-type forces for their militaries, the Territorial Defense Forces for Poland and the Zemmesardze for Latvia, that are focused on defense of their homeland and resistance against an aggressor.
“The conclusion of this Ridge Runner training is an exceptionally important milestone for both West Virginia and our allies in Poland and Latvia, who we have a longstanding relationship with in our State through the State Partnership Programs with the Illinois and Michigan National Guards,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard. “West Virginia is the perfect venue for our highly trained special forces to help these two na-tions’ military forces develop the skills vital to their mission at home, which is extraordinarily im-portant in this era of geo-political uncertainty.”
“This exercise provides us a unique set of skills needed in developing our unconventional warfare skillsets,” said Marek Zaluski, acting public information officer for the Polish Territorial Defense Forces. “Our primary role is similar to that of the National, which is to support the local communities. In addition, we serve as a reserve base for conventional forces. Here at Ridge Runner, we developed skills beyond that. We’re learned how to work with Special Forces, serve as liaisons, how to speak the same language, have the interoperability and cooperation.”
He continued, “We greatly appreciate the opportunity to train with the West Virginia National Guard, through Ridge Runner and the State Partnership Program. All those skills being developed go right along with what we learn at home. The soldiers who came with us for this exercise were specifically handpicked from a larger group because they represent the skills needed to operate with the Special Forces community as liaisons, pathfinders, and as people who are the points of contact in case of an unconventional warfare situation.”
Ridge Runner’s mission is to develop and execute irregular warfare training across the State of West Virginia that contributes to the development of Special Operations Forces’ (SOF) and General-Purpose Forces’ (GPF) irregular warfare understanding and capabilities, in order to support national security.
The Ridge Runner program operates in different parts of the state because of its diverse training needs and the terrain the State of West Virginia offers. Ridge Runner is held numerous times per year to train forces in both the United States and around the world.
The State Partnership Program (SPP) is a National Guard Bureau initiative that links states and territories with partner countries around the world to foster mutual interests, establish long-term relations, enhance U.S. national security interests, and promote political stability. Through the SPP program, the Illinois National Guard is partnered with Poland and the Michigan National Guard is partnered with Latvia.
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