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The enhanced battlefield

By Sgt. Peter Fitzgerald
First published in
SFOR Informer#128, December 12, 2001

The goal of exercise Strong Guardian was to bring multinational elements together to perform as a single “enhanced battle group.” Unfortunately, weather disrupted the final live-fire phase of the exercise. But if the aim was to get multinational troops working together, that was accomplished well before the snowstorm rolled into Glamoc Range.

Glamoc - The objective was to take out a terrorist training camp. More than 500 troops gathered in the early morning of Nov. 23 to play their part in this scenario. After a week of practise at Glamoc Range in Multinational Division Southwest (MND-SW), they were to carry it out in a live-fire battle run. As the various elements began to take their positions, a severe storm suddenly blew its way onto the range. Within minutes, everything went white. Troops and equipment disappeared in a blinding blanket of snow, ice and wind. With no visibility and no letup in the storm, the live-fire portion of the exercise had to be cancelled.
"We couldn't see 10 metres in front of us," said German Pfc. Nico Baginski, a Luchs reconnaissance tank driver. "There was not enough visibility for shooting. It was unfortunate."
Baginski was part of a German infantry and reconnaissance platoon from MND Southeast (MND-SE) that came to MND-SW for the exercise. While the troops were not able to test their skills with live fire, they did have the opportunity to work together and learn from each other during the week.
"It's very interesting to see all the soldiers of foreign countries working together," said Baginski. "We can see it's possible to accomplish something as one team."
The Enhanced Battle Group
Strong Guardian is MND-SW's biannual exercise designed to develop effective procedures and standards of operation for assembling and training a multinational battle group, or an "Enhanced Battle Group" (EN BG) in this case. Last month's event was the fourth Strong Guardian exercise. The Canadian Battle Group (CA BG) led the exercise, with three platoons from the 3rd Royal Vandoos Regiment. They were joined by various elements from across MND-SW (as well as the German unit from MND-SE).
"The overall goal of the exercise is to work towards a multinational environment in terms of our operations, and to set up a certain standard of procedures within MND-SW," said CA BG commander Lt. Col. Nicolas Matern.
For the exercise, Matern was the EN BG commander. He said this Strong Guardian was larger in scale than what had been done in the past. Along with the Canadians, the United Kingdom Battle Group had two infantry platoons from the Royal Gurkha Rifles. The 42nd Mechanised Battalion from the Dutch Battle Group participated with a mixed company of tanks, reconnaissance and anti-tank vehicles. Other elements included a Canadian engineer troop, a mixed British and Canadian artillery battery, Dutch and Canadian aviation assets of Cougars and Griffons, a military police section, an operational reserve air group of Blackhawk helicopters, and the German infantry and reconnaissance platoon. Together, all the elements formed the Enhanced Battle Group.
The exercise focused on meeting specific objectives to improve the EN BG concept. The elements worked together to foster and develop the idea of multinational team-building. Their aim was to solve interoperability issues, establish effective battle techniques and tactics, and practise command and control procedures.
"The different groups have different ways of doing things," said Matern. "This week has allowed us to see how other people do their thing. We've been able to find out in no more than a couple of days we could form something homogenous."
Despite having several languages involved, Matern said communication was not a problem, and added that the troops showed great enthusiasm for the exercise.
"They've really taken it head-on," he said. "Co-operation has been great. We're talking, we're understanding each other, we're communicating quite well. We could be quite effective together."
The key is confidence
After a week in the field performing manoeuvres and dry runs, the multinational troops began to get a feeling of cohesiveness. That was key, said Matern.
"I want them to get a level of confidence that they can actually work together," he said. "It takes a little time and a little bit of effort. But if we're brought into an operation we know we can actually do this together, no matter what nation we're from. This has been good training, and a good way to get to know each other."
Sgt. Maj. Mike Helms, the Dutch team sergeant major, understood that Strong Guardian wasn't about getting live fire practise. The mission was about different nations coming together as a team.
"It's good experience for troops to work in a multinational environment," he said. "We're making new friends and learning from other countries. We worked very easily together, as if we'd known each other for years."
Even as the snow came to Glamoc Range, the troops understood that the mission had been accomplished.

Related link: Training and Exercises