Multinational Joint Resolve XVI
By Sgt. Maj. Patrick van de Poele
First published in SFOR Informer #66, 21 July, 1999
Drina valley - Day One, July 12, mid-morning, on the west bank of the Drina River halfway between the villages of Ustikolina and Osanica in the Portuguese Area of Responsibility, North Brigade, Multinational Division South East (MND-SE).
A small team of Italian and Portuguese soldiers from the Brigade secured a large field and marked out an orange 'H'. Portuguese Sgt.Maj. Jose Rebelo, the team leader, had been ordered to prepare for airborne reinforcements in the framework of exercise Joint Resolve XVI. He was briefed to consider the area as potentially hostile and had posted guards around the Landing Zone (LZ).
The first warning was the beat of helicopter rotors coming from the south, suddenly, around a bend in the valley, three giant CH-53Gs of the German army stormed into view. Beneath each of them swung a French Light Armoured Vehicle (VLB) from the armoured squadron of MND-SE's Rapid Reaction Force. In seconds they were hovering over the LZ, the power of the rotors swept up clouds of dust and gravel, then the armoured cars were on the ground and the CH-53s were landing to off-load their human cargo. Within a minute they were in the air again and flying towards Mostar to pick up the next wave of vehicles.
On the ground French 1Lt. Jacques Fume was supervising the arming of his cars while his transmission NCO, SSgt Olivier Fauereau was establishing contact with the Squadron. As soon as the vehicles were ready, Lt Fume gave the order to move out, heading towards his target zone. He was to secure a house on the outskirts of Vitkovici, the base of a Non Governmental Organisation, and protect it until the rest of their squadron arrived from Mostar.
Over the next couple of hours the remainder of his Platoon joined him as the CH-53s brought them in. and by mid afternoon Capt. Philippe de Sagazan, the commander of the armoured squadron, had arrived to reinforce his second Platoon and to secure the zone. Their immediate mission completed they could now look ahead to the rest of exercise Joint Resolve.
Sokolac area - Day two. On the heights of Odovici, early morning, the grey blanket of fog was stained by orange smoke. Suddenly the downdraft of over a dozen large helicopters cleared the fog away and U.S. Blackhawks were landing all over the ridge. Infantry off-loaded rapidly and then with a roar the helicopters were off, covered by a flight of AH-64 Apaches, also out Commanche Base. In less than five minutes an Air Assault had taken place and silence reigned again, a company of infantry from Central Brigade, MND-SE, had joined the handful of Portuguese and Italians soldiers who had secured and marked the Landing zone.
While his French Platoon served as rear guard, the German company commander, Capt. Olaf Rohde sent his German and Ukrainian platoons forward to secure the village of Cavarine. His mission being to protect the ethnic minority living there under threat from hostile elements threatening security in the area. Within the hour his dismounted platoons had been joined by their armoured vehicles and they could expand their perimeter to set up checkpoints on the approaches to the village. "Raven" the International Company of the Mobile Action Detachment (MAD) had been successfully deployed on very short notice.
The MAD commander, German Major Wolfgang Christ had set up his HQ about a kilometre from the centre of the village. Just before noon he headed out towards the village of Markovici to meet the advance party of his second unit, company "Eagle", which had been brought in by Blackhawk. "Eagle" Company was out of Camp Demi, a U.S. company of light infantry belonging to COMSFOR's Rapid Reaction Force. By 13.00hrs Eagle Company (Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion - 87th Infantry Regiment) commanded by Capt. David Taylor had settled in and was controlling the MAD's outer perimeter with patrols and simulated checkpoints.
A multinational force had been rapidly and smoothly deployed into a potential trouble spot and had taken control within hours of the initial orders being sent
Exercises such as this serve to refine the deployment of COMSFOR's mulitnational forces. It allows SFOR to demonstrate and practice their ability to deploy rapidly anywhere in Theatre where the peace process is threatened.