The U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA), the U.S. National Guard, and other U.S. government foreign assistance implementers supported an inaugural week-long defensive marksmanship exchange program with 10 policewomen with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) in September 2023.
The Regional Security Office at U.S. Embassy Dushanbe, along with ATA’s Rural Border Patrol Operations mentor and the ATA Interagency Liaison Branch played vital roles in supporting the all-women marksmanship program, which was funded through the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) “333” program. The exchange program was led by male and female members of the Virginia National Guard under the State Partnership Program, an initiative that pairs individual countries with Guard units from U.S. states. Additional training support, such as translation, was provided by the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).
The provision of modern equipment by the ATA-administered DoD 333 program ensured that participants had access to cutting-edge gear and technology. This provided them the opportunity to focus on skill development and adaptability, preparing them for real-life operational scenarios. Throughout the training, participants underwent rigorous physical, mental, and technical instruction, honing their marksmanship and tactical expertise. The significance of this all-female defense marksmanship exchange extends beyond its immediate impact, as it serves as an example for other nations aspiring to build gender-inclusive police and militaries.
Under the guidance of experienced instructors from the Virginia National Guard, the exchange demonstrates an increased focus on gender equality and inclusivity within the security forces of Tajikistan. Attendance at the course enabled female participants to apply for senior positions and qualify for incentives such as higher pay, additional food stipends, and better housing. Participants noted that they are eager for further training that will not only allow women to gain desired skills but also offers increased visibility and acceptance for women in law enforcement positions in Tajikistan.
In addition, several of the participants are beneficiaries of a Tajik government program that supports orphaned family members who lost their father or main income provider due to war or conflict. These students are provided a college education and, upon graduation from the university, have an opportunity to join the MoIA and serve the Republic of Tajikistan.
U.S. female instructors added a layer of mentorship and role-modeling, facilitating a supportive learning environment for all involved. The female participants from Tajikistan’s MoIA used this opportunity to showcase their determination to excel in their profession.
The success of this all-female defensive marksmanship course is a testament to the commitment and dedication of the participants and instructors, and the collaboration between the U.S. Embassy, Virginia National Guard, DoD ATA-333 programs, and the Department of Justice. U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan, Manuel P. Micaller, congratulated the 10 women for completing the exchange program.
“This exchange,” Micaller said, “was a great opportunity for the U.S. government and the Republic of Tajikistan, through programs like this, to recognize the important role women play in the defense of their country.”