The Spanish-French Battle Group runs again

2Lt. Agustín López Marín
First published in
SFOR Informer#155, January 9, 2003

From Dec. 26-30 the Spanish-French Battle Group, belonging to the Multinational Brigade Southeast (MNB-SE), deployed all its units to their Area of Responsibility (AoR). The purposes of the exercise were to establish the different missions assigned to the SPFRBG, check the readiness and capabilities of SFOR units, familiarise the BG personnel to their AoR and to show the SFOR units' presence among the civilian population.

Duzi - Capt. Luc Le Coz commands the French Infantry Marine Company (FRIMC). "During this week, the different platoons belonging to the FRIMC are deployed in many municipalities of our AoR, Gacko, Bileca, Nevesinje and Trebinje. To perform activities related to information patrols in the Montenegrin border, and to better know the primary needs of the local people in order to provide humanitarian aid with the help of CIMIC units," said Le Coz.
Counter-radicals action
In this hamlet close to Trebinje, the 1st Platoon of the FRIMC, led by 1Lt. Renaud Merlin, completed on Dec. 27 an exercise with the goal of the detention of some hard-liners belonging to a group with strong ties to a radical political party. Members of this extremist group conducted attacks in some villages and overran a Weapon Storage Site (WSS) where they stole explosives, weapons and ammunitions to disrupt the calm and stable situation in the area. "We receive this type of mission on scarce occasions. In theory, our unit would give a green box security to the Multinational Specialised Unit (MSU), the Carabinieri Special Weapons and Techniques (SWAT) team or the local police. Anyway, we must be prepared to perform a reaction in a possible escalation of hostilities, on the best conditions and training," stated Merlin.
Merlin made a Mission Analysis with a situation assessment. Later, he split the platoon into some squads assigning tactical missions to his team leaders. For each detail, he gave them his own approach and endorsement.
In an isolated building, three French soldiers wearing civilian clothes simulated the behaviour of radicals preparing destabilising actions. While the infantry moved stealthily through the bush, inside the forested terrain, four VABs (Armoured Personal Carrier) secured the assault action assuming that the hard-liners receive hypothetical help from the local community. Merlin gave only one order "go now". After 15 seconds, the radicals were surrounded by a squad of soldiers pointing their FAMAS SLR rifles at them. The assault appeared to be over with two captured radicals. But not quite yet, one more hidden vilain escaped in a vehicle. Staff Sgt. Anthony Moreau with his squad stopped his flight at the first cross-roads. Sgt. Franck Kuntzler is on his fourth mission in BiH, and explained: "After a meticulous search in the house and the car, the French platoon found some small weapons, ammunition, explosives, varied documentation and a video camera. We improve our training to be prepared for a real case." Merlin emphasised: " Now, we will repeat the process but changing squads' tasks."
Operation Hilton
The Spanish Infantry Marine Company (SPIMC) is going to complete new tasks. Capt. Jesús Calvo Hernández commands this unit. "We made the relieve of the guard with the French troops. My unit collaborates with the Moroccan soldiers on the guard of the Europe Base in Mostar and, also as a reaction force in a surprised action," stated Calvo.
Maksumici is located 13 km from Mostar. One old abandoned hotel of this small town is the place selected by 1Lt. José Lorenzo Penalva, to perform Operation Hilton, an exercise to capture a Person Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWC) supported by the local population. Lorenzo is assigned to the 4th Platoon, SPIMC. "We have to train and improve our skills and tactics for this type of operation. Intelligence units would give us guidance about identification, exact location and some features about the local support environment to the war criminal. Every element has a specific task according to the phases: provide security, assault and identify the PIFWC inside the building, blockade escapes, etc.," explained Lorenzo. During the previous days, this platoon would practice the activity with the information brought by a small team, which made an exhaustive reconnaissance of the place, identifying operational hazards and details. In the early morning of Dec. 28 the convoy with four Humvees left Mostar. They quickly make their way into the cover of the wood-line in order not to be detected. They overtake the building in a matter of minutes. Suddenly there is a flurry of activity. The PIFWC has no time to react and is captured. The transportation team react quickly. The game is over.
Sgt. Francisco Manuel González Orozco commented: "This type of training is all part of a day's work for infantry troops. There is always the challenge of making sure things run according to plan in a scenario with opposition forces. The most difficult thing is to locate the position of the enemy and evaluate hazards, then when we know exactly where the objective is, we infiltrate and get as close as possible to make the assault."
Calvo supervised directly the unfolding action. "I trust completely in the capabilities and the skill levels of my troops, to react in unexpected situations that could jeopardise the stability in the region," he added.
Patrolling the Montenegrin border
From Dec. 26 to 28, two platoons belong the Spanish Light Cavalry Squadron (SPLCS) were encamped for three days in Duzi, in the facilities of a former SFOR detachment. Capt. Francisco López Villar, Commander of the SPLCS, stated: "During these days, my Squadron has to perform various activities. For instance, two platoons check some Border Crossing Points (BCP). The other two platoons have two missions; firstly to provide security during the rebuilding of a mosque in Stolac and secondly, verify the correct functioning in the large WSS situated in Gabela (close to Capljina).
First Lt. David Gil Mora, assigned to the 1st platoon, commented: "My unit has to update previous information about 35 BCPs with Montenegro (location, type of facilities, civilian police or military personnel responsible of the point, trade, etc.) and to identify mountain routes without surveillance. The main goal is to avoid the illegal gun-running and dangerous smuggled goods."
Staff Sgt. Sergio Lallana Caluzano is performing his first peacekeeping operation in BiH. "We are patrolling the main routes around the towns of Mostar, Bileca, Trebinje and Neum, to guarantee a secure environment avoiding any riots, and ensuring the stability and the economical and political development of those municipalities," he concluded.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France, Spain
Training and Exercises

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Photos: Sgt. Laurent Pontillon

Staff Sgt. Lallana patrols the route between the towns of Trebinje and Lastva.


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First Lt. Gil explains the details required to check every BCP.


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Staff Sgt. Montesino and his squad arrest the PIFWC.


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Once the PIFWC is arrested, the unit has to quickly leave the areas.


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The assault team performs the arrest of a suspected radical.


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Staff Sgt. Moreau and his squad arrest the escaped hard-liner.


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The assault team waits for 1Lt. Lorenzo's order to initiate their mission.


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While some members of the squad interrogate the radical, 1Lt. Merlin (r.) evaluates all the seized devices.