By Sgt. Peter Fitzgerald
First published in
SFOR Informer#119, August 8, 2001
Training got underway with a bang at Manjaca Range
in Multinational Division Southwest (MND-SW) July 26. This time,
it wasn't SFOR troops making all the noise. This exercise involved
soldiers from the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), and SFOR was
there merely to observe.
Manjaca Range - As the fire from the tanks thundered through the
valley below, VRS Maj. Milovan Nisic, training officer for the
101st Armoured Brigade, stood and watched his troops from above.
"This is their baptism by fire," he said. "This
is where they put together everything they've learned."
alongside Nisic were SFOR observers from the United Kingdom Battle
Group (UKBG). Their task was to ensure the exercise complied with
SFOR's mission as cited in the General Framework Agreement for
Peace (GFAP), said Australian Capt. Malcolm Brailey, Joint Military
Affairs officer for the UKBG.
"We're a presence," he said. "We're looking to
see that the exercise isn't offensive in nature, that there are
no territorial issues and that they're actually conducting the
exercise they said they were."
The exercise was the final phase of training for the soldiers
and, for the first time, they were able to test their skills on
a live-fire range. They performed manoeuvres with M84 tanks (the
Yugoslav version of the T72) and BVP M80 Armoured Personnel Carriers.
The APCs provided fire support as the tanks shot off 125mm rounds
at their targets. Teams were switched throughout the exercise
so all of the more than 100 soldiers could experience the live-fire
the end of the afternoon, only two targets had been missed.
"I'm very satisfied with their performance," Nisic said.
He added that these soldiers showed a great deal of improvement
from the last class.
In their training, the VRS soldiers go through three months of
instruction where they learn basic soldier skills. They then put
those skills to the test in a two-week field training exercise.
During the two weeks in the field the soldiers conduct individual
manoeuvres, dry runs with their equipment and vehicles, and some
sub-calibre firing. At the end of the exercise they co-ordinate
all of their efforts into a troop battle run on the live-fire
"This is the pinnacle of their training," said Staff
Sgt. Brian Powell, UKBG military observer for Joint Military Affairs.
As an observer, Powell said he was there to ensure the exercise
complied with pre-established criteria. He looked at manpower,
equipment and area of operation to ensure the exercise stayed
within the agreed bounds. Also, by observing the VRS in action,
SFOR could get an idea of the unit's organisation.
"We get a feel for their capabilities," Powell said.
"We can see how organised they are, what their attitudes
are, and how they conduct and control their operation."
observing the VRS hit nearly all of their targets, Powell said
he felt the unit was very capable.
"They're quite a well-organised unit, considering they've
only been at it for three months," he said.
Brailey added that the 101st Armoured Brigade was the key unit
in the VRS.
"This is where they put all their resources," he said.
After finishing their part in the exercise, the VRS soldiers found
some shade under the trees at Manjaca Range and took a break.
With the final phase of their training complete, the next step
for these soldiers is getting assigned to a unit. They will go
on to serve six months in various units in the VRS to fulfil their
required nine months of military service.
After his day observing VRS soldiers in action, Powell said he
found the relationship between SFOR and the VRS to be a very good
"They're very willing to talk," he said. "Military
language is universal. When we talk about tanks and artillery,
we understand each other."
agreed. "It's been an excellent relationship with SFOR,"
he said. "The co-operation and contact for the last three
years has been very good."
Powell added that co-operative exercises like this "can only
help" the future for peace in the country.
As the VRS continues to train its soldiers, there is also hope
that future exercises will involve co-operation among all the
forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"They're an army trying to maintain their capabilities,"
said Brailey. "We would like to see combined exercises between
the VRS and the Federation Army (VF). That's a hope for the future."
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