NATO-PfP-Exercises "COOPERATIVE LONGBOW and LANCER 2006" (II)
While the participants of "COOPERATIVE LONGBOW 2006" (COLW06) were finishing their work in the capital Chisinau, the preparation of the field training exercise (FTX) "COOPERATIVE LANCER 2006" (COLR06) in the training area of Bulboaca/Moldova began.
On Monday, 18 September 06 the AUT participants of COLR06 were transported to Moldova (MDA) in a C-130 Hercules transport plane of the Austrian Air Force. The itinerary of the flight was Linz, Emmen (Swizerland/CHE), and Chisinau and took us a total of seven hours, including the planned landing and pick up of the Swiss COLR06 contingent in between.
After having landed safely at Chisinau airport and having passed a kind of out-dated but romantic Eastern-bloc-style customs procedure, the two contingents continued their trip to Bulboaca training area (BTA) by bus and with MDA transport trucks. Upon getting there, they spent the whole evening with lengthy in-processing procedures.
Phase 1 - Individual Training
At dawn the Austrians could see the building progress made by the host nation (HN), rating it as sufficient and practical. But we had no time to enjoy the amenities of the infrastructure or to inspect the facilities in detail since according to the tight schedule training and introduction started with the first classes to be held already in the morning.
Most of the officers leading and developing the entire exercise came from NATO Headquarters (HQ) CCLand Madrid, which was the command in charge of the exercise. In addition to the staff members from NATO Commands and HQs the other three participating groups were: - troops from the sending nations (SN) as members of the MNBn and the DISTAFF, - soldiers from the HN MDA, integrated in the battalion and in the DISTAFF, - and observers from various non-NATO countries.
From 19 to 20 September 06 the approximately 650 participants from among 20 nations were either teaching or being taught and trained in PSO and other military subjects as well as subjected to combat drills, such as - rules of engagement (ROEs), - first aid, - rifle and machine gun training, - MAT (Mine awareness training performed by two AUT NCOs), - personal and vehicle searches (conducted by two AUT officers), - and given an introduction into MDA’s armoured personnel carrier (APC).
Classes were distributed all over the BTA, a former built-up military training area (MTA) of the Russian army, that covers approximately 15 square kilometres and includes firing ranges, PSO installations, airstrips, barracks and different combat training facilities.
During the entire exercise the soldiers were integrated into a Multinational Battailon (MN BN) with three MN companies (COY’s) made up of six platoons consisting of the national sections. The three COY’s were the primary training audience (PTA) of the exercise and the MN BN HQ the secondary training audience (STA).
The leadership had to be aware of the existing professional, social and language barriers of a multi-national environment. The biggest challenge for all soldiers and, particularly, the commanders of all echelons, was the timely development of a type of corporate identity and cohesion inside these patchwork units.
Phase 2 - Collective Training
From 21 to 23 September 06 training continued with the collective training phase. This step was aimed at training the section under the command of their leaders to handle PSO situations and tasks by using different techniques related to, and driven from, the respective NATO standards and directives. Led and controlled by COY, platoon (PLT) and BN commanders the sections passed through stations distributed throughout the whole training area and, in this way, were trained and increased their knowledge and skills. The lessons were presented by experienced and well-prepared officers and NCOs from participating PfP and NATO countries.
Classes given and training contents
- Media training, thereby showing how to deal with media representatives and to give interviews; - Securing an IDP camp, providing security and protection to people living in a camp; - Patrolling on foot and with armoured vehicles in order to provide ground surveillance; - Reacting in case of a roadside bomb; - Anti-sniper activity; - Using the communication assets available; - Maintaining checkpoints (CP’s) and performing control activities; - Anti-riot measures in order to conduct crowd and riot control (CRC) operations; - Fighting in built-up areas, approaching villages, and searching houses.
An implied task and emphasis of all lessons was force protection (FP) for own troops.
MDA, being the HN, provided 250 soldiers, proving to be well-prepared, trained and highly motivated role players in the exercise.
Differences between the sections became obvious in the course of the dynamic lessons mentioned above as far as dealing with the given tasks is concerned. The reasons for this are different national directives, experiences, field manuals, leadership training, as well as social and cultural approaches.
On Sunday, 24 September 06 a brief and plain opening ceremony took place on the camp’s parade ground, followed by a half-day visit of Chisinau, the capital of MDA. Accompanied by a female German speaking tour guide the Austrians were given a quick but comprehensive tour of the country’s capital including its inhabitants, the kindness of its people, and its tasty national dishes.
Refreshed and motivated, on the next day, the first PLT of C-COY, with an AUT officer as second-in-command (2IC) and the AUT section as one of its elements, prevailed over the other five platoons in the platoon challenge.
The competition included the following three disciplines: - Throwing hand grenades; - Live firing with different rifles and machine guns; - Running in platoon formation a course of 3.2 km.
The Austrians also demonstrated their social competence and their ability for integration, when their PLT, consisting of the AUT section together those from Poland, Macedonia, Moldova and Croatia, showed their excellent team spirit and won the first prize.
Phase 3 - LIVEX
From 26 to 28 September 06 and using a PSO scenario as background, the three COY’s had to execute PSO missions in three adjacent training areas (TA) or areas of operation (AOO). The big problem with this phase was that the leading echelons at PLT- and COY-level were not sufficiently prepared.
During the first steps of the Live Exercise (LIVEX), COY and PLT commanders had to be motivated to act as PTA and not as coordinators, as they had to in the first phases. Daily mission briefings held in the evening put the respective COY in the position of assessing the tasks and the situation as well as preparing their troops for the next day.
Umpires and evaluators, most of them trainers of the corresponding classes during the two training phases, closely monitored the performance and presented their feedback during the tactical hot wash-up (HWU) on the site immediately after the end of the mission or task.
The main activities in the three training areas comprised: - patrolling by APC and on foot, - securing an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp and using anti-riot measures and techniques, - manning CPs, - and preparing and carrying out cordon and search (C&S) tasks.
All the missions were dedicated to half-platoon- up to COY-size including COY reserves (RES) and an earmarked Battalion Reserve (BnRES) equipped with APC’s.
Distinguished visitors and media representatives visited the LIVEX phase and were deeply impressed by the high standard of the performance and, especially, the engagement of the MN elements.
After a brief closing ceremony and a cultural presentation of MDA inside the training camp as well as another short visit of Chisnau, the AUT element was deployed back to Austria by the professional and reliable Austrian Air Force via Emmen on 30 SEP 06. Contrary to the rather chaotic in-processing, the departure was perfectly planned and executed by HN representatives, including normal customs and airport security procedures.
After having landed safely in Linz the Austrian contingent was disbanded in front of the airport and released to their respective units.
HNS and Environment
The decisive criterion for every host nation is the HNS’s overall service including everything soldiers need for their daily lives, ranging from lodging and sanitary facilities to trivia, such as electric power sockets or the amount of warm water in the showers.
Of course, when hundreds of soldiers from 20 different nations live together in such a confined space the differences in their ways of living or individual needs become evident.
None of us expected the amenities of a hotel or a typical Austrian household, so we were adequately prepared to create a good and bearable environment on the basis of the given conditions. Nevertheless, I would like to illustrate with a few typical and noteworthy examples the situation that we were faced with and, in this way, to give you an impression of our living conditions during the exercise.
Most of the soldiers were accommodated inside mass quarters for 100 persons each or in canvas tents.
Lodging was almost irrespective of rank. In this way, a Turkish colonel, was accommodated next a British corporal together with 90 other soldiers of various ranks.
Food was provided by the catering enterprise of MDA’s national airline. This means that three times a day we had good, plastic-covered airline food.
After three days of complaining and requesting the necessary amount of hot water was available for breakfast to ensure the soldiers had their required caffeine boost in the morning.
Medical treatment was provided almost exclusively by the well-equipped Austrian and Canadian medical teams and not the badly equipped HN teams, contrary to what was provided for in the agreements.
The promised money dispenser in the camp did not work and, thus, we had to take care of getting our money changed ourselves.
Many of MDA’s transportation means were not safe and the trips often resulted in a risky adventure.
On the whole the living conditions were bearable, and the few shortcomings could be remedied by our well-renowned Austrian flexibility and our highly developed organisational skills.
A continuously functioning telephone line to Austria and an immediate reaction to our needs, such as purchasing additional food, disinfectants or real coffee, were important to boost and maintain high morale.
The friendliness, eagerness and attempts by all officers and representatives of the HN to solve all arising problems, to learn from mistakes, and to remedy shortcomings cannot be appreciated highly enough and must be underlined clearly.
Lessons Learned and Experiences Made
Preparation and training one week before the exercise was a necessary, even indispensable, precondition in order to be adequately prepared for the exercise, to give confidence in one’s abilities, and to guarantee mission success. The team-building effect during preparation and language training proved to be extremely useful to all of us for the fulfilment our daily missions.
Logistic requests and transportation planning had to be initiated three month prior to deployment, thus ensuring that all offices and everyone involved had sufficient time for administrational matters. Only the strict regulations concerning the transport of hazardous goods and the precise personnel and equipment data report several months in advance seem to be overly cautious because necessary changes had to be made only a few days before departure.
Lockable soldier’s boxes for every AUT participant and for a large part of the contingent’s equipment improved the security situation during the whole exercise. Only few contingents were equipped with comparable items and could, therefore, keep their military equipment and personal effects locked away in the otherwise open and accessible accommodations.
The benefits gained, lessons learned, and experiences made by the participating Austrians are considerable.
The main challenge for the Austrian soldiers was to do their job inside a MN environment using a different language than their mother tongue. The Austrians communicated and cooperated with their counterparts and comrades on all levels and were able to fulfil the given tasks and missions. This is satisfying insofar as it confirms that the Forces’ language training concept works and that our soldiers have a high standard of self-responsibility.
Right from beginning the contingent was able to demonstrate its high standard of discipline and military demeanour, which underlines the professionalism and the unity of our contingent. By observing and assessing the attitude and demeanour of others the Austrians could compare their own military and social competence, which can be rated only in direct comparison with foreign soldiers doing the same job at the same time and under equal circumstances. Therefore, in direct comparison the young NCO’s of the AUT section could see how high their high standard really is.
The Austrian combat equipment, including the new battle dress and weapons are functional and meet the highest international standards. Outstanding was our recently developed and versatile attachable combat vest, which was one of the best seen in the exercise. The Army Universal Gun (AUG), known as StG 77, was one of the most admired and tested assault rifles during the shooting exercises, but an upgrade adding a night vision capability and giving it night combat effectiveness is urgently needed.
After having studied the different PSO techniques and approaches, our soldiers could select certain useful procedures to be incorporated into their own training routines at home. However, no revolutionary aspects or innovations could be discovered. Nevertheless, the intensive discussions about these subjects complemented the successful training procedure. With regard to PSO techniques on section- and platoon-level the Austrian field manual "Schutz, Aufgaben und Techniken" (Protection, Tasks, and Techniques) offers, in combination with the relevant section and platoon manuals, reliable background instruction.
Even more valuable than the purely military experience from the exercise are the regular social and cultural contacts that resulted in an active exchange of personal military experiences and adventures among the various contingents.
It was remarkable for the AUT contingent to see how national restrictions influence the various sections’ handling of combat situations, particularly when acting against aggressive role players. In this respect, other nations could not understand why our section was hesitant and tried to avoid full contact. The AUT contingent subsequently had to explain our respective national caveats and regulations.
The exercise aim was to obtain interoperability in PSO techniques, which could not be achieved completely, since the lessons were prepared and executed by individual T/Os, who often mixed NATO standards and national rules with personal experiences gained in deployments.
The overall exercise organisation provided illustrative examples on how to structure such exercises and how to combine the activities and actions of all branches and Directors Staff (DISTAFF) divisions, role players, WHITE CELL (creating realistic environment; see 1st part of the article, TRUPPENDIENST Issue 1/2007) and other cells.
Media training, giving interviews, and receiving feedback on individual mistakes were among the major training features, whereas the explanations given how to do it better were the most outstanding lesson, highly appreciated by all participants, and which should be integrated also into the Austrian training routine.
In the future, participation in international exercises and working in a MN environment ought to become a must for every career military. The benefits of international exercises and activities will directly influence and improve our efforts and results both in operations abroad and international exercises conducted in Austria. When abroad, our soldiers act as ambassadors of our country and reflect the Austrian army spirit, knowledge, skills and professional attitude - and that around the clock.
Austrian members of COLR06 fulfilled all the tasks and missions given perfectly and in a mission-oriented way and, in this manner, demonstrated their military professionalism as well as their social competence and skills in working along with soldiers of different nations.
Next year ALBANIA will host "COOPERATIVE LANCER 2007", which will be directed by the NATO Command of CCLand Heidelberg, hopefully also with Austrian participation.
With regard to COLR06 the Austrian contingent’s final report is: "Mission accomplished!" ___________________________________ ___________________________________ Author: Major Bernhard Köffel, born 1964, Military Academy from 1984 to 1987, infantry officer in the Landwehrstammregiment 53 in Straß as platoon leader and later on as training officer. From 1994 to 2003 commander of the reconnaisance company Bleiburg. Since 2003 staff officer in the 7th infantry brigade. Missions: ECMM, IFOR/SFOR und KFOR. National Contingent Commander of "COOPERATIVE LANCER 2006".