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Joint exercise: Palmera

By 1st Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#120, August 22, 2001

The Spanish Battle Group has performed a series of joint activities with platoons of the Moroccan Contingent aimed to show them how the Spanish force works and trains to be ready to fulfil its mission. The co-operating activities took place from Aug. 13 to 17 in different zones of the Spanish Area of Responsibility.

Mostar/Stolac - To know about other SFOR troops, their procedures and their weapons is always an interesting and rewarding activity for military staff who want to improve their professional knowledge. For a whole week the Spanish Battle Group (SPAGT XVI) comprised of soldiers of the “Castilla 16” Regiment, based in Badajoz (Western Spain), prepared some joint exercises.

Technical Data BMR-600
Six-wheeled Amoured Personnel Carrier (APC)
Crew: 12
Combat weight: 14 tonne
Dimensions: 6.15 x 2.50 x 2 m
Armament: 1x 12,70-mm machine gun, 1x120-mm mortar (optional)
Engine: Pegaso - 306 hp or Scania - 310 hp
Maximum speed: 100 km/h
Autonomy: 1,000 km

Within this framework one Spanish Infantry Company and one Moroccan Platoon trained together in the exercise “Palmera” (Palm).
The training started in the morning with a briefing by the Acting Company Commander, 1st Lt. Angel Luis Gutierrez Crespo, who explained the made-up scenario and assigned missions to his three platoons and the Moroccan unit integrated in the Sub-tactical Group “Palmera.”
The scenarios
The action dealt with two supposed cases in which SFOR would be involved. The first was a civil riot, supposedly taking place in Neum, the area where a platoon was deployed. The second was the first stone laying ceremony at a religious site by an important authority. A Spanish platoon, reinforced with the Moroccan component, was deployed to the area to provide security for the event. Two teams of these forces acted as Quick Reaction Forces (QRF). Their mission was to evacuate authorities if necessary. In addition, the third Coy-element was in reserve.
The key point was the co-ordination among the different units’ elements. Gutierrez also insisted on SFOR traffic exercise rules.
Outside, in the garrison parking lot, infantrymen were preparing their equipment, weapons and their BMRs (a Spanish-made Armoured Personnel Carried, APC). The language was not a problem thanks to 1st Lt. Jose Enrique Talavan Presa, commander of the joint platoon who also acted as translator: “This kind of exercise is essential to maintain military skills and be ready in case of a real need. It also relieves the monotony of barracks life.”
Getting into action
Once the briefing was over the Sub-tactical Group left the garrison for the training area. The stage for the “cornerstone ceremony” was the garrison building’s ruins, where a Spanish detachment was based near Stolac.
Once on the site, the squads deployed a safety box consisting of several rings surrounding the place, providing security against any disturbing element (such as rioters, demonstrators or saboteurs), monitoring and making a zone impossible to cross without being noticed. But that day the real foe was the sun, with temperatures at about 40 degrees centigrade.
The soldiers showed great training in the manner that the orders were carried out. Cpl. Jose Collazo Cruz is in his fourth tour in the theatre: “This is a common exercise for us and in all missions there are some Rules of Engagement (ROEs) which are compulsory to follow. What we are looking for is the mobility and the knowledge of the area to favour later actions.”
Finally the exercise ended with the evacuation of the authorities to a secure place.
Learning experience
The operation was over, but the activities went on with a packet lunch in the field and a live-fire shooting exercise in Zelic, (an area near to the previous one) where troops had the opportunity to show and improve their shooting skills, finishing the shared journey.
“Every day we change soldiers in order to expose as many as possible to the learning procedures. Spanish procedures are very similar to ours...only the weapons are different. One thing I think is interesting is that the Spanish APC has (a version) one 120-mm mortar and this has great possibilities,” commented 1st Lt. Fouad Nassihi, Moroccan Platoon Commander.
Operation Palm was the main exercise in those combined activities, but not the only one. They started with weapon exhibitions (one for each contingent), one daily tactical exercise involving a platoon of each nationality, providing experiences which are highly appreciated.
“It is a good time to meet people, to change ideas and to improve our skills,” said Nassihi. “This is a good chance to see how the Spanish Task Force works,” also commented Moroccan Chief Master Sgt. Mohamed Karim, translator.
Apart from the tactical issue, two typical lunches, one in each contingent’s barracks, took place. It was a leisure activity useful in creating partnership and interchange experiences.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain, Morocco
Training and Exercises