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Spanish Brigade on exercise

by Capt. Fernando Melero

First published in the SFOR Informer #16, August 6, 1997

photo 1T.JPG (9249 bytes)Berkovici - Like a thunderbolt, a patrol dropped down from the helicopter and, in a rapid assault, reached their objective, freeing hostages. Fortunately this was not the real thing but an exercise carried out by the Spanish Brigade "Galicia" in the area surrounding Berkovici.

"The exercise was planned a long time ago. It has nothing to do with current activities involving the Spanish Brigade in its area of operations (AOR)," said Lt. Col. Juan Atares, Commanding Officer of Task Force "Santiago" and director of the exercise. TF Santiago is deployed in Trebinje, Republika Sprska, and is made up of a rifle company from the Prince Regiment and a platoon from a cavalry squadron out of the Lusitania Regiment.

photo 2T.JPG (10478 bytes)"It’s part of our daily routine because, although we played a mechanised role here, we are an airmobile unit back in Spain and we are used to working with helicopters and planes. We were missing this kind of training," said Capt. Luis Gonzalez Garijo, CO of the Prince regiment company. In addition to the Spanish troops, one company from each Task Force in the Spanish Brigade, "Zamora" and "Santiago", and a small Special Operations Detachment, the exercise involved two CH-53 German helicopters, based in Rajlovac, plus a Spanish Super Puma, and a Cougar and Gazelle from France, all based in Ploce.

"We planned carefully before the operation" said Capt. Santiago Ortiz-Repiso, Helicopter Liasion Officer; while the CO of the "Zamora" company, Capt. Vicente Gonzalez, nodded, "we employed different kinds of helicopters, with various capacities and with different security rules."

photo 3T.JPG (11566 bytes)The exercise itself consisted of an heliborne deployment of each company to cut the main accesses to the target and therefore isolating it from any reaction. "It required a great effort to coordinate the different helicopter waves as we deployed from two camps, in Trebinje and Mostar" said Capt. Jose Ramon Perez, TF "Santiago" Operations Officer. Almost simultaneously, to take advantage of the surprise element, the assault force composed of soldiers from the Special Operations team were landed very close to the objective, launching the main phase of the operation.

The exercise ended with the redeployment of the troops to their respective camps. "We have enjoyed this exercise very much," said Pvt. Camilo Conde of TF "Zamora" Company. "It has been a very good experience to fly in a German helicopter for the first time and it has been a change to the normal routine with the BMR (Blindado Medio de Ruedas, a Spanish-made light wheeled APC)," he added. "This exercise has been a very successful end to a very successful second tour for the Brigade in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH)," said Atares, referring to the "Galicia" Brigade being replaced by the "Extremadura" Brigade.

[Spanish soldier]

[Exercise and Training]