A fruitful exchange for three contingents

By 2Lt. Agustín López Marín
First published March 10, 2003

From March 2 to 8, one Canadian platoon from Multinational Brigade Northwest (MNB-NE) conducted joint activities with units from Spanish-French Battle Group (SPFR BG), Multinational Brigade Southeast (MNB-SE). During the exchange, one French platoon was transferred to the Canadian Battle Group.

Mostar - On the early morning of Thursday March 6, a joint patrol with a varied mosaic of vehicles and uniforms initiated the trip from Mostar Europe Base to Jablanica. Once they reached the town, the patrol was divided into three parties. Each was responsible for conducting a reconnaissance in Jablanica and Prozor downtown and their vicinity.
A different sky above their heads
The mixed patrol was formed with troops from each of the three contingents: French, Canadian and Spaniards. Master Sgt. Bruce Montrose commanded the Canadian unit, 1st platoon, equipped with four 'Coyote' (Reconnaissance Armoured Vehicle) assigned to the Canadian reconnaissance squadron located in Zgon.
"During this week, the Canadian unit accomplished very diverse tasks. First, I can mention that on Tuesday we participated in a joint display of armoured vehicles and weapons from the three contingents. Wednesday, the air reconnaissance by helicopter gave us the first sight of the Area of Responsibility (AoR) of MNB-SE. Today, it is the opportunity to learn and teach our own tactics. Tomorrow, March 7, we will carry out a live-fire exercise with vehicles on the firing range of Macipolje and finally, on Saturday we will play some soccer and volleyball matches against Spanish and French troops," commented Montrose.
New landscapes with the same missions
After a briefing and lunch in the Monastery of Ramsko Lake, the three parties continued with their reconnaissance. French 1Lt. Ludovic Sommerlat, who is performing his first mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, commands the 3rd platoon, Recce Squadron. Sommerlat led the joint patrol and explained: "This activity was planned with specific goals. Obviously, Canadian troops are neither accustomed nor familiar with our AoR. Also, we reconnoitred the outskirts of Jablanica and Prozor, showing a light presence by patrolling by foot within the villages. In addition to this, we gather information about main needs and immediate problems of local population, prevent anti-returnee activities and tension between ethnic groups, and continue informing the community about weapons, mines and explosives harvest program."
Reach a perfect mutual understanding
First Lt. José Ortega Cegarra led Spanish troops assigned to the 4th platoon, Light Cavalry Squadron. This unit took part with BMRs (Armoured Personnel Carrier) and Rebecos (similar to Humvees). "This type of general mission improves our shared knowledge, we have similar guidelines and tactical features. However, we realise that the use of different languages represents an initial obstacle.To accomplish more specific and complex activities we have to overcome this. Anyway, I think that it's very satisfying to develop these type of joint missions, which allow us to reach a perfect mutual understanding," stated Ortega.
Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Freire Gutiérrez added: "This operation reflects the great capacity of SFOR to interchange small operational units among different Brigades. It demonstrates, by mean of fast deployments, the ability to reinforce another brigade and thus to respond to determined situations that exceed the capabilities of a single MNB."
"For me, this exercise represents the first time I'm working with MNB-SE. Recently, we made another exchange of units with British troops in Banja Luka. I consider these joint exercises very interesting because my soldiers can put into practice all their previous studies about French and Spanish equipment, and above all, be able to handle weapons and discover other armoured vehicles," concluded Montrose.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Canada, France, Spain
SFOR at Work

Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photos: Sgt. Toni McDowell

Lt. Sommerlat talks with 1Lt. Ortega and Master Sgt. Montrose about the patrol organization.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge

These exercises show an interplay among different contingents.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge

There is always a moment to share experiences and reminisce.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge

Canadian Cpl. Hodgson (c.) explains to Spanish Sgt. 1st Class Freire (l.) and French Sgt. Savignat (r.) the main features and capabilities of the Coyote (ARV).