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Condor takes flight

By 1lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#102, December 6, 2000

Nevesinje - The flapping sound of rotor-blades cutting air rumbles through the valley. Loaded with French and German soldiers, four American Black-Hawks and two German CH53 helicopters take off to their different landing zones. Two AH64 Apache gunships supported by two OH58 Kiowas work as guardian angels for the landing party. Nothing must go wrong. The Mintlanders lives depend on it.

“Our mission is to protect two villages with refugees from Mintland. Paramilitary groups from Cherryland are threatening them. Early this morning they cut off the road to Mostar. Therefore the commander of MNDSE decided to fly in our Tactical Reserves,” said Maj. Olivier Barnay, leading the operation on the ground.

With soldiers storming out from helicopters, Exercise “Condor” is well underway. The Apaches have already encountered the first group of hostile Cherries firing mortar grenades into a village with Mintlanders.
“The Apaches returned fire,” said Barnay. Dry-fire that is. Now, more hostile Cherries are coming in from the East.

At one of the landing zones, a German platoon is reassembling. They are experienced in working together with French units, being a part of the Franco-German Corps in Strasbourg.
“We know each other because we work together in Germany. One aim with this exercise is to handle the common procedures of command and to insure the comradeship between Germans and French,” said Capt. Michael Richter.

Together with French Capt. Martial Courtot, they lead a mixed company with two German platoons from the German Battle Group in Rajlovac, one French platoon from the Battle Group in Mostar and a detachment of sharpshooters.

Altogether, two infantry companies and a mortar platoon were launched to the area by helicopters - helicopter deployment being the main aspect to the exercise. The 120mm mortars were sling-loaded to the field, so were several French VBL armoured cars.

“This is the first time we have done this, although we have trained at the airfield at Mostar,” said Sgt. Yannick Dewalles, leading one of the sling-loaded VBL-teams.
“The hard thing is to know the exact weight and procedures to make a perfect sling. We are three people in one VBL. All has to be well-prepared, as a reflex,” he said.
His team enjoyed the 10 minutes extra flight-time they got due to a delay among escorting helicopters.
The mortar platoon has more experience with helicopters, training with Puma helicopters back in France.

“The Blackhawk is quite different from our Puma. The mortar seamed to swing more. It is good for us to try this with different types of helicopters. Up until now, we have only tried it with the Puma,” said mortar platoon leader Lt. Charly Pouplin.

Soldiers from the American 2nd Battalion, 3rd Helicopter Task Force assigned from Commanche Base in Tuzla, also enjoyed the training.
“It’s a very good exercise, but also a chance to work with French and German Battle Group soldiers, and German helicopters from BATALAT (Light Aviation Battalion).

It’s a fully integrated combined arms operation,” said task force commander Lt. Col. Gary Servold, who brought with him 43 soldiers for maintenance, air-crew and a command control unit.
And at the end of the day, they saved all the Mintlanders from the hostile groups of Cherries. They could enjoy a safe flight home after a job well done.

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