By Cpl. Jean-Philippe Lavigne
First published in
SFOR Informerr#127, November 28, 2001
At the end of last month, between Nevesinje and
Gacko, the 27th regiment of "chasseurs alpins" (Mountain
Troops) belonging to the French Battle Group (FR BG) were engaged
in training exercises consisting of rescuing people, de-mining
the land and neutralising cores of resistance. These manoeuvres
ended with a spectacular assault of airborne troops over the ranges
- The whole operation was conducted in the framework of SFOR missions
devoted to control and supervision in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
It provided a chance to appraise the capabilities of these soldiers,
who are particularly well prepared to move in such a landscape
under winter weather conditions.
In recent years, the situation in BiH has been subject to important
changes justifying a parallel evolution of SFOR missions. "Our
efforts are now concentrated in three directions," says Col.
Phillippe Berne. "First, we still need to be vigilant and
ready to neutralise any emerging source of tension. Second, deliberately
we are engaged more and more in CIMIC type operations, which contribute
to facilitate our integration into the local populations. Finally,
it is essential to maintain the potential of our troops to interfere
in any local conflict. Ultimately, we tend toward not so much
of presence, but more proximity."
such a view in mind, the possibility of reducing the number of
tactical battle groups in Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE)
from four to three is being more and more seriously considered.
Similarly, the FR BG might envisage a shrinking of its contingent
(by 165 troopers) during the first half of December. "We
really want our troops to be in phase with the local situation,"
says Berne. "This is particularly the case for the chasseurs
alpins. They are mountain soldiers, well adapted to the local
environment, and well trained to climatic winter conditions."
SFOR missions are for the most part directed toward assistance
or dissuasion, thereby fully justifying exercises such as the
present one. "They allow us to show our force, to test our
responsiveness and to evaluate the efficiency of our troops in
the operation field," explains Col. Marcel Abbonen.
a combination of tactical exercises with shooting exercises provides
an overview allowing us to point out possible improvements. The
training is also excellent for our soldiers. We can watch their
reactions to our (commands) and gestures. This also gives us an
opportunity to appraise their skills in shooting under realistic
is a remarkable cohesion within our group," says Berne, "since
about 75 percent of these troopers come from the same regiment.
I consider this important. The exercise is not only aimed at testing
the reactivity of the forces, but also at evaluating their aptitude
simulation of medical evacuation was also carried out using a
helicopter belonging to the Multinational Air Army Detachment
(BALATAT) of Ploce, with the assistance of a medical team consisting
of a doctor, a nurse and a medical auxiliary. A de-mining group
such operations may be particularly hazardous, we get training
as often as possible in actual conditions," explains Doctor
Raphael Guyon-Veillet. "Our rescue team often needs to intervene
in ravines, at night, or under snow storms, since car accidents
are unfortunately rather frequent here."
Without a doubt, the most spectacular part of the exercise was
the three successive assaults of airborne troops on the plains
of Macipolje. Soldiers of the alpine regiment landed on the field
and readily evacuated after a series of 10 shootings at 550m.
was supposed to simulate the neutralisation of a pocket of resistance
as part of the operation "Harvest," with the goal of
discovering an arms hiding place. "That kind of intervention
is now becoming unlikely, but we need to maintain the reactivity
of our troops," says Abbonen.
the near future we plan to conduct such exercises with armed forces
of the two entities (Armed Forces in BiH)," says Berne, "since
such a concerted action is entirely in the spirit of what we are
expected to do here."
Nations of SFOR: France
Training and Exercises