Vermont National Guard Logo News
News | May 30, 2010

'Always a Step Ahead' - Macedonia Rangers partner with Task Force Avalanche in Paktya

By Staff Sgt. Whitney Hughes Combined Joint Task Force - 82nd Public Affairs Office

True to their motto "Always a step ahead," the soldiers of the Ranger Battalion of the Macedonian army are forging new ground with their U.S. partners from the Vermont Army National Guard in the National Guard's State Partnership for Peace Program.

By being the first Guard unit in the PFP program to embed and conduct combat operations in Afghanistan, the soldiers of the Ranger platoon and the Vermont Guard are making history for the program.

The platoon of Macedonian Rangers are embedded with 4th Platoon, D Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry at the Sar Hawza district center, where they conduct daily combined operations with Afghan National Security Forces to provide security and help train and mentor them.

"We are always proud to be soldiers for our country. But now we are soldiers for other countries also," said Macedonian army Staff Sgt. 1st Class Sashko Gjorgjeav, the first sergeant of the Macedonian Ranger platoon.

"It is a great pleasure to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans," said Macedonian army 1st Lt. Vlatko Karanfilov, a team commander from Skopje, Macedonia, with the Ranger platoon.

Three months into their mission, the combined team members have found their rhythm, conducting multiple patrols each day with their Afghan partners. Despite the triple language barrier, the Soldiers have been able to build a working relationship, not only with each other, but also with the Afghan National Police who also live on their joint combat outpost.

"We're pretty tight with them. We have passed a working relationship to a friendship. If we didn't like each other this wouldn't work," said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Dan Silver from Dover, N.H., the platoon leader of the 4th Platoon, D Company.

Their living conditions at the district center have also played a large role in strengthening their bond. The Macedonian and U.S. Soldiers not only work together, but they eat, sleep and live together. In addition, their Afghan police partners live only a few feet away and host a tri-national dinner almost nightly.
The result of the bond they have built was evident during a recent escort patrol the U.S. and Macedonian team conducted with the ANP.

They told ANP Chief Zafar Khan they could continue without his team. After meeting up with the ANA further down the route, Silver turned around and saw Khan and his team had followed to ensure they made it safely.

"This is my second tour and he (Khan) is the best Afghan soldier or policeman I've ever worked with," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Hill, the 4th Platoon, D Company platoon sergeant.

The combined team has five villages in its area of responsibility. In the villages, the mission is to support the ANSF in providing security and help develop the infrastructure and stability of the government.

"We are here to help the Afghan people by doing anything we can to help them build a better life," said Karanfilov.

This is what Silver calls full spectrum counter insurgency operations.

"Today, it is not just conventional armies fighting conventional armies. There is a lot more required of us. The mission involves security, development, information operations and agricultural development. All of those lines of effort have to be incorporated," Silver said.

Security, one of the most important facets of their mission has been a success as they have received no civilian or combined forces casualties in their operation so far, said Silver.

Scouting insurgents used to be a problem in the mountainous terrain, but due to the continuous patrols and intelligence operations with the National Directorate of Security, they have seen a significant decline in the insurgent activity, said Hill.

A recent convoy patrol showed the benefits of multi-national coordination in action. While returning on a convoy from Forward Operating Base Sharana to the Sar Hawza district center, a team of Macedonians, U.S., and NDS soldiers received information that there was a possible ambush with an improvised explosive device awaiting them on the road.

The Macedonian soldiers quickly took action by dismounting from their vehicles and searching the road on foot for IEDs to clear the route for the convoy. The team made it back to the district center without incident.

"We are the first unit to work embedded with another army; this is a big experience for us. This is something you can't learn in a book; it is something you have to learn in the terrain here," said Karanfilov.

National Guard News
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, adjutant general of the California National Guard, and California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis watch a demonstration of tactical equipment during a visit to the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Air National Guard Base, California, Sept. 2, 2021. The California National Guard and Ukraine have been partners under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program since 1993.
National Guard Supports Armed Forces of Ukraine
By Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes, | June 8, 2022
ARLINGTON, Va. – Pinned down by a Russian tank and armed with only a failed anti-tank missile, a Ukrainian soldier recently turned to an unlikely source as the most effective weapon available — his cell phone. On the other...

New York Air National Guard Airmen assigned to the 109th Airlift wing deployed to Greenland in support of Exercise Polar Reach May 11-27. The Airmen worked with the Canadian Royal Air Force and the Minnesota Air National Guard to test the capabilities of its Polar Camp Skiway Team.
NY, Minnesota Airmen Hone Ice Runway Construction Skills
By Tech. Sgt. Jamie Spaulding, | June 8, 2022
STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. – Ten Airmen assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing deployed to Greenland to support Exercise Polar Reach May 11-27.The exercise, a joint international training event conducted by the 109th...

Members of the 166th Airlift Wing Security Forces Squadron transport a simulated wounded team member during an exercise at the New Castle Air National Guard Base, Del., June 6, 2022. The exercise, a part of Operation Gemini, ensures Airmen are trained and mission ready at all times. (Modifications were made to enhance the subject through color correction, cropping and exposure correction.)
Delaware Air Guard Demonstrates Readiness in Graded Exercise
By Senior Airman Brandan Hollis, | June 8, 2022
NEW CASTLE, Del. – After years of preparation, the 166th Airlift Wing performed the Air Mobility Command graded exercise Operation Gemini to demonstrate its Total Force Readiness and ability to operate overseas.The exercise...

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher White, 315th Fighter Squadron commander, deployed to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, prepares an F-35A Lightning II aircraft for takeoff, June 3, 2022. Members of the 158th Fighter Wing are in Europe to support NATO’s ongoing air policing mission to deter aggression and assure allies and partners in the region.
Vermont Guard Pilot Reaches 1,000-hour Milestone a 3rd Time
By Maj. Meghan Smith, | June 8, 2022
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher J. White, the 315th Fighter Squadron commander assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, reached his 1,000th flight hour milestone in the F-35A...

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense, during the National Guard and Reserve posture hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington June 7, 2022.
Continued Investments Make Guard Effective, Chief Says
By Air Force Master Sgt. Erich B. Smith | June 7, 2022
ARLINGTON, Va. – The chief of the National Guard Bureau told senators June 7 that continued investments in the National Guard mean it will be able to effectively support the Joint Force while quickly responding to the needs...