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Operation Sparrow


By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer #100, November 8, 2000

Nevesinje - The soldiers of SFOR have to be ready for any kind of situation. This is where exercises come in - to keep everyone well-trained on their individual tasks as well as tasks that require multinational teamwork.
Soldiers in Multinational Division Southeast had their skills tested during such an exercise, Operation Sparrow, Oct. 24-25. The exercise included soldiers from the French 1st Company, 1st Marine Infantry Regiment, 2nd Company, 110th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Marine Artillery Regiment, the Moroccan Infantry and helicopter support from the German Battle Group.

The scenario used in Operation Sparrow was one that the soldiers could possibly face sometime in the future, said Maj. Oliver Barnay, Operations chief for the French Battle Group.
"Local groups are threatened by paramilitary groups. They have cut roads to the area. So the Tactical Reserve has been committed by helicopter," explained Barnay. "We arrived in four rotations of helicopters, then secured two villages. We are prepared to defend the villages with one mortar platoon and two infantry companies in defence. In each company we also have one Moroccan platoon."

Several hours later, the soldiers were reinforced with more troops who arrived in combat vehicles.
This was just the beginning of the exercise for the Tactical Reserve. Soldiers from the Battle Group Headquarters played enemy troops as conflicts during the exercise began.

"We will engage our forward elements with mortar by smoke pods. Then we will return simulated fire with our mortar platoon," said Barnay. "We will also have infiltrations with vehicles in the forward where we will stop and search them. We will monitor the area with patrols during the evening and the night by vehicle. There will also be some light-armed elements coming in by foot and we will detect and capture them."
This operation allowed the Tactical Reserve to test their readiness in several ways.

"The goal is to train our units by helicopter, to train our mortar platoon to be heliborne and to train our units to monitor an area with patrolling, detection and observation," said Barnay. "We also want to improve our light radio liaison because this is light equipment you can take by helicopter. We have been working to keep liaisons with the units on the ground, and we are improving this."
In the end, all went as planned, almost.

"This morning one helicopter was out of order, so we had to change our rotations and how our elements were in the helicopters to come here. But this is reality, and it is good training for us," said Barnay.
Lt. Col. Dominique Lauger, French Battle Group commander said he was very pleased with how the exercise went and how the soldiers reacted to it.

"This has been very useful because we continue to train with heliborne operations in order to be a rapid reserve for the division, to be able to intervene in all of the division. It was a good exercise. All of my people enjoy coming out of Mostar so they can be active in their jobs," he said.

Capt. Khalid Ameur, commander for the Moroccan 2nd Platoon, said training in the tasks required of the Tactical Reserve was a good experience for the Moroccans soldiers.
"It was very interesting to be part of this operation. My soldiers have already trained for this type of mission in Mostar, so they know how it is supposed to be going," he said.
Pvt. 1st Class Cyrille Hue, from the French Mortar platoon, said that being in the field training is always a good thing.
"I prefer to be here because it's good for us to be outside Mostar, to have a mission. It's good training for us to touch mortars again," he said. "The exercise was very good, but I think it was a little cold in the morning when I had to get out of my sleeping bag."
That was because temperatures dropped to around zero degrees celcius overnight. This also added to the training, said Lauger.
"The cold was no problem - we are infantry. I think it's a good thing to come back to the reality of the terrain," he said.

Related links:
Training and Exercises
Nations of SFOR: Morroco, France, Germany