NATO-PFP Exercises "COOPERATIVE LONGBOW and LANCER 2006" (I)
For several years NATO has conducted annual Partnership for Peace exercises with the goal to increase its member nations’ interoperability level for peace support operations. For 2006 two exercises were scheduled in Moldova: the command post exercise "COOPERATIVE LONGBOW 2006" (COLW06) in the capital Chisinau and the field training exercise "COOPERATIVE LANCER 2006" (COLR06) in the training area of Bulboaca. COLW was conducted in the Ministry of Defense from 7 to 21 September, immediately followed by the FTX, which lasted until 29 September.
With the September 2006 PfP exercises "COOPERATIVE LONGBOW" and "COOPERATIVE LANCER" two new exercise series entered the scene of international military training and cooperation.
The exercises, however, are not a new creation but much rather a continuation. The reason for this is that, due to a concept change, the former exercise series were renamed in order to indicate that new series had begun. In accordance with the new concept the brigade-level command post exercise (CPX) LONGBOW will be followed by a training exercise for infantry sections, resulting in the live exercise (LIVEX)/field training exercise (FTX) LANCER, which will employ the same peace support operation (PSO) scenario and many of LONGBOW’s personnel as trainers/observers (T/Os) and Directing Staff (DISTAFF) members.
"COOPERATIVE LONGBOW 2006"24 NATO and PfP states, ranging from the USA to Kazakhstan and from Norway to Turkey, participated in the CPX, making it a truly multinational and interesting experience.
Austria’s participation in COLW06 was organized by the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, with deputy brigade commander LTC Langthaler heading the contingent. On 21 September the 7th Infantry Brigade took over for participation in COLR06. COLW06 was a brigade-level command post exercise, which means that only the brigade HQ really existed, while all other elements and events were simulated.
Exercise Organization COLW06
The exercise was planned and conducted by the Allied Land Component Command (LCC) MADRID, a NATO HQ commanded by a Spanish three-star general. The goal was to give a multinational brigade (MNB) HQ the chance to train how to provide security and stability within an area of operation (AO), non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO), and counter terrorism (CT).
To make this possible, several elements, aside from the actual MNB HQ, were necessary.
EXCON provided control, administration, and real life support for the exercise.
DISTAFF was responsible for actually conducting the exercise. This was ensured by MEL/MIL, which coordinated the fictional events and incidents needed to create a realistic situation for the MNB HQ. Furthermore, the observers and trainers monitored everything and were able to provide feedback and assistance during the after action reviews (AAR). These daily AAR were very helpful, because they gave everybody an overview of what happened during the exercise phase, and, in so doing, made it possible to learn from mistakes. Mistakes did occur, of course, as otherwise this exercise would not have been necessary. But they were usually not repeated, which means that the exercise participants really learned their lessons.
WHITE CELL was responsible for creating a realistic environment for the MNB HQ by simulating the elements needed to maintain the information flow into and out of MNB HQ. HICON simulated the different cells of LCC MADRID, giving orders and answering requests and questions. In addition, other important elements, like international organizations, civilian authorities, and the adjacent brigades were simulated here. Every element was represented by an experienced staff officer with a computer. LOCON simulated the units of the brigade: four mechanized task forces, artillery, engineers, CSS, CBRN, MP, CIMIC, a medical battalion and an aviation company. Each unit was made up of one commanding officer, one operations officer, one logistics officer, one intelligence officer, one administration NCO, and their respective computers. The response cells provided the HQ with reports and information, thus making the decision-making process and drafting of orders possible. After receiving their orders, they simulated them on the map and again provided reports and information.
Because the goal was to conduct a paperless exercise, every element and cell had computers hooked to a LAN (Local Area Network). All reports and orders were sent via e-mail using Outlook, and for us "low-tech" Austrians it was quite impressive to see how this worked. Of course, reports and orders were printed out by the receivers, but the transmissions were electronic. Two problems, however, still have to be addressed. Firstly, it was sometimes difficult to keep communication discipline, as everybody tended to send everything to everybody. And secondly, this only works as long as the network and the computers function properly. Therefore, the ability to use old fashioned methods, like overlays and voice orders over the radio must be maintained.
The 21 Austrians participated in all cells from DISTAFF to WHITE CELL and the MNB HQ itself, some of them in important functions. For example the G2, the G6 and the brigade engineer officer were Austrians.
Exercise Scenario COLW06
For COLW06 the fictional island of Jewelry was used as exercise scenario. A section of northern Africa’s territory was taken and put right into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as an island, divided into five states. The two relevant states were Onyx and Emerald, with a large Emeraldian minority, called Sapphiriens, living in Onyx. Because of ethnic differences and disputes over natural resources, Onyx and Emerald were at war. A Sapphirien terrorist organization called NASP (New Army of the Sapphirien People) joined the fight against Onyx, because they objected to Onyxian rule over their minority. The hostilities led to the expected results like ethnic cleansing, destruction of infrastructure, disruption of civilian life, and massive refugee movements. Under UN pressure the two factions conceded to a cease-fire agreement and pulled back. NASP did not sign the agreement and vowed to continue the fight against Onyxian oppression. To implement the agreement and assist in restoring the pre-war situation, NATO, empowered by a UNSC (United Nations Security Council) mandate, deployed OFOR (Onyx Force) to Onyx. The exercise started about three months after the initial deployment, with the situation being calm but unstable. It was a Kosovo-type situation, with the troops on the ground, employing techniques needed for patrolling, CPs (check points), OPs (observation posts) and CIMIC.
Preparations for the Exercise COLW06
DISTAFF personnel deployed a few days in advance to make final preparations, while the main body of the participants arrived in Chisinau on Sunday, 10 September. The preparations made by the Moldovan army were good - we were whisked through customs, loaded onto our busses, and quickly taken to our hotels, with wailing police cars leading the way. Things, like traffic lights, traffic signs or other restrictions did not exist for us. This transportation method was used throughout the entire exercise, making us feel very important. The hotel accommodations were very satisfactory and the first day ended with a good dinner in town.
After being transferred to the Ministry of Defense for the first time on Day 2, a real "Power Point battle" began. We were briefed the whole day on exercise organization, real life support and exercise scenario, and were also given all kinds of information - some more and some less interesting. For us Austrians this was nothing really new because we had gone through a very detailed exercise preparation at brigade HQ prior to deployment. A humorous highlight was the Moldovan force protection officer telling us, "Chisinau is safe city, but don’t leave circle" which he had drawn around our hotels on his map and continued, "When you get arrested, stay calm, nothing will happen to you". Humor aside, the force protection provided by the host nation was outstanding; with massive security force presence everywhere we went, making us feel safe and secure.
Day 3 began the same way the day before had ended - with briefings. After lunch we started to get acquainted with our duty stations and the international comrades we would be working with for the coming days. It soon became evident that the language issue would be a major problem. Some personnel both from old NATO nations and former Eastern Bloc countries had very limited or even almost non-existent knowledge of English. Adding to that, we had some "submarines" among us, although it was a land and air exercise. This meant that the workload of those not capable of doing, or unwilling to carry out, their tasks had to be covered by those who could do it. But this was nothing new for us. Needless to say, the Austrians were not among the "submarines", belonging to the active type of participants. Another problem were the maps. Not only were they very generalized and, therefore, unfamiliar to us, because our Austrians military maps are very detailed, and we had a hard time sorting out the grid references. It also turned out that the MNB HQ and the task forces had different maps, which caused a little bit of a chaos in the beginning.
We spent Days 4 and 5 continuing with our preparations, such as drafting the first reports, improving the flow of information, and working on the problems previously identified. The highlight was the official opening ceremony in the early evening on Day 4. Another minor problem became evident during the rehearsal. Due to differences in parade regulations, it was impossible to respond to basic orders like "attention" or "at ease" in a uniform manner. Speeches by generals and politicians, national flag bearers, and a military band preceded the buffet with traditional Moldovan food, beer, and wine.
To ensure that all preparations were done correctly a half-day mini exercise was held on Day 6. Information flow, communication and understanding of procedures were tested by simulating a low-level situation without major incidents. The mini exercise went satisfactorily and residual problems were identified. After the after action review, the host nation cultural day commenced. The Austrian contingent together with some of the Canadian participants visited a monastery outside Chisinau and, in the evening, enjoyed a traditional Moldovan dinner. Let me say a few words about the evenings in Chisinau: the exercise co-director, a Norwegian one-star general, had ordered in his briefing that those who were heroes at night should also be heroes during the day. Nightlife in Chisinau was not exactly vibrant but you could get a very satisfactory dinner at a very good price. For example in a first class restaurant with waiters swarming around the tables and going as far as adjusting the napkin on your lap, a two-course dinner, a couple of beers and some wine amounted to about 15 Euros.
On Day 7 the last remaining problems were addressed and final preparations were made before the actual exercise would start on Day 8.
The Exercise COLW06
As mentioned above, the situation was like that in Kosovo, with standard PSO techniques being conducted and normal everyday reports and orders being drafted and distributed. One major operation, however, was carried out on Day 8 - a non-combatant evacuation operation to fly out international civilian employees threatened by the NASP terrorist organization.
Because of NASP attacks carried out against civilian infrastructure and OFOR, the situation turned unstable and a counter-terrorism operation was conducted on Day 9. In this process an identified terrorist training camp was successfully raided in a regular mechanized assault with artillery fire support.
The major challenge for the MNB HQ staff was to keep the information flowing and to ensure that everybody knew in time what he or she had to know and, in this way, support the decision-making process. This might sound simple but, believe me, it was not. The problems caused by language barriers, of working in a pretty complex NATO environment, and of being a young and untried team were soon overcome and our performance got better and better.
Because combat operations are not the only important PSO factors, the emphasis of the exercise then changed to something less martial. The highlights of this period were a big press conference on Day 10 and a Joint Military Committee (JMC), that is a meeting of all factions involved under the control of the peace support force, on Day 11. Both were conducted in a very professional manner by the brigade commander, a Swiss colonel (general staff), and his staff.
The exercise was concluded with the closing ceremony held in the auditorium, which was slightly less informal than the opening ceremony and which featured a less opulent buffet.
Day 12 was the day of our redeployment to Austria, which went as smoothly as our deployment, although the support of the Moldovan army was not quite as intensive as that when we first arrived. Interestingly, all other Western personnel also flew out via Vienna, because apparently Austrian Airlines is the only Western airline flying to Chisinau on a daily basis. Those who stayed in Moldova for "COOPERATIVE LANCER" had a cross-walk to the training area of Bulboaca.
Firstly, I can only recommend participating in this kind of exercise. It is interesting and fun, and really broadens one’s horizon. It is also good to see that the Austrian soldiers’ capabilities are as good as anyone else’s, even when compared to "old" NATO nations.
The main goal of COLW06 was to train information flow. Things like how to best assault a terrorist training camp can only work when everybody knows what he or she needs to know. So it was about getting people to communicate with each other. The important thing was not to be afraid of speaking in English. Grammar mistakes and occasionally using wrong vocabulary did not matter, as long as the meaning was brought across. Even though NATO procedures sometimes differ from ours, because of our training, we are flexible enough to quickly adapt and function as a part of the team. And bureaucracy is the same everywhere.
In conclusion I would like to say that, even though some NATO forces may definitely be superior in certain aspects, there is not much of a difference between them and us. The chief of staff of the MNB, a Canadian lieutenant colonel, told me that the long-term goal of these Cooperative Exercises is to bring PfP nations up to NATO standards for PSOs. He also said that, in his opinion, the Austrians did not participate as trainees but helped other PfP nations to get closer to that goal.
"COOPERATIVE LANCER 2006"
At the beginning of 2006 the 7th InfBde was tasked by the AUT Ministry of Defence (MoD) via the chain of command to participate in COLR06, which would take place in the Republic of Moldova (MDA) during two weeks in September this year.
The AUT contingent was to be made up of one infantry section, additional officers and non-commissioned officers (NCO’s) with a total strength of 21 members.
International Exercise Preparation COLR06
During the preparations phase of the exercise Austrian soldiers from the MoD and from the 17th Infantry Battalion (InfBn 17) participated in three conferences and one workshop (WS) in MDA. On the international level this preparation sequence is a common procedure to prepare multi-national (MN) exercises in a chronological and progressive order.
The meetings included in detail: - Initial planning conference (IPC), 17 to 19 JAN 06, Chisinau; - Main planning conference (MPC), 7 to 9 MAR 06, Chisinau; - Final planning conference (FPC), 23 to 26 MAY 06, Chisinau; - Training WS, 22 to 26 MAY 06, Chisinau.
The conferences’ agendas were predominantly about technical arrangements (TA), manning the exercise, logistic and financial matters as well as host nation support (HNS), and only secondly about training matters. In the course of the meetings and during the stay, the members of the AUT delegation could observe how the conditions of Bulboaca Training Area (BTA), which is located some 40 km south east of the capital CHISINAU, improved and the rebuilding and working activities progressed.
Preparation COLR06 in Austria
After having decided which prerequisites and high-echelon preparations would be required for the exercise, the internal preparation of the contingent had to be planned, prepared, and executed in accordance with the orders issued and agreements made. Two weeks before the exercise started, the infantry section of InfBn 17 began its tactical training in the Erzherzog Johann barracks in Straß. One week before the beginning of the exercise, the entire contingent assembled in Straß for intensive special training, with the main effort being placed on - Contingent cohesion, - English language training, - Briefs about the Republic of MDA including a threat assessment, - Logistic preparation, and - Instructor and section training.
The AUT contingent was made up of the following personnel: - 1 NCC and evaluation officer (HQ 7th InfBde) - 1 evaluation officer (HQ 2nd ArtRgt) - 1 officer as incident tracker (17th InfBn) - 1 admin NCO and incident tracker (17th InfBn) - 2 officers as I/Os for personnel and vehicle search (17th InfBn) - 2 NCOs as I/Os for mine awareness training (MAT) (17th InfBn) - 1 deputy COYCDR (17th InfBn) - 8 career NCOs, forming the infantry section (17th InfBn) - 1 doctor (battalion surgeon of 17th InfBn, reserve organisation) - 1 (male) nurse (17th InfBn) - 1 admin NCO (MoD), passing from COLW to COLR - 1 chief production to be posted at the press information centre (PIC) (Editorial staff of TRUPPENDIENST) passing from COLW to COLR.
(to be continued) ___________________________________ ___________________________________ Authors: Major Bernhard Köffel, born 1964, Military Academy from 1984 to 1987, infantry officer in the 53rd Militia Training Regiment stationed in Straß as platoon leader and later on as training officer. From 1994 to 2003 commander of the Bleiburg reconnaisance company. Since 2003 staff officer in the 7th infantry brigade. Missions: ECMM, IFOR/SFOR und KFOR. National Contingent Commander of "COOPERATIVE LANCER 2006".
Captain Philipp Heger, born 1975, enlisted in 1994, and graduated from the Theresian Military Academy in 2002. He has served as a deputy company commander, S1, S5 and company commander in the mechanized forces. He is currently the commander of 1st Company/Armor Battalion 10. His deployments include AUSBATT/UNDOF and AUCON/KFOR. Staff officer in "COOPERATIVE LONGBOW 2006".