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Courageous Beaver

By Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#129, December 26, 2001

Dec. 9 to 16 French and French-Canadians took part in exercise Courageous Beaver. The event was designed to improve co-operation and understanding between the two forces. Activities on the exercise included live firing, public disorder training and a field exercise.

Mostar - The eight-day exercise involved elements of the French Battle Group (FBG) in Mostar and a platoon from the Royal 22nd Regiment (the Vandoos). This platoon was formed so that its three sections represented the three platoons from its parent company; also present for some of the exercise were additional troops from Quebec.
"In some places we may have a French Company reinforce another BG, we have to know how the other BG work…(one of) the French Officers in the FBG had spent one year in Canada (to increase his military experience)…so he called (the Vandoos) and they decided to do an exchange," said French Capt. Philippe Couturier, the exercise author.
Live firing
The live firing occurred at an old Yugoslavian National Army (JNA) range outside Nevesinje. Side by side were the French and Canadian armoured personnel carriers (APC) as well as a mix of the small arms used by both nations. While instructors of the "host" nation looked on, the soldiers tried out the new weapons.
"Today is the best day as we have lots of ammunition for the .50 calibre, so we can practice a lot…(we are) happy to exchange the weapons, it is a soldierly feeling." said French Capt. Philippe Corbel.
"The shooting is the best, everyone is eager to try the FAMAS (the French assault rifle). The French are fascinated by the M 60 variant," said French-Canadian 2nd Lt. Frederick Cote of the Vandoos.
That afternoon the static firing lines were broken up as two platoons containing both French and French-Canadian troops carried out live firing attacks. The APC gave covering fire with the .50 Calibre, while the infantry advanced.
"The Canadian weapons are good for shooting. It is during the live firing attack we will see if they are strong weapons," said French Pfc. Guillaume Bengit.
The live firing phase ended with troops being lifted by helicopter back to Mostar.
The exchange of information extended beyond weapon handling, however; the exercise offered an opportunity for both forces to get to know each other on many levels.
"The discovery of another allied army (and) the way they are working is very interesting…there are no language barriers…we can speak about details. We have discovered that they are reservists and many details about the Canadian Army," said Bengit.
"As mountain troops we are used to cold conditions and have special equipment for winter, and it is interesting to compare and discuss this," said French Maj. Bertrand Leduc.
"During the holidays they only think about hockey, it is very important to them. In France, it's only a small sport," said Couturier.
"The realisation that the problems in the Canadian Army are the same in the French…has helped to amend our training…It is good working with the French (to learn) new ways of doing things," said Cote.
Field exercise
On the 12th both elements took part in a public disorder exercise; Couturier provided a running commentary of the action, which occurred in wind-blasted ruins near Nevesinje. The Vandoos encircled a group of protesters who threatened friendly personnel within a ruined building. As they did so they were pelted with debris and snowballs. After negotiations had failed the French squad deployed in their APC. Enduring yet more snowballs and taunts from the protesters the troops extracted the friendly personal and all withdrew to a helicopter-landing site.
Col. Philippe Berne, commander of the FBG, summed up the events of the field exercise and the spirit that could be found throughout Courageous Beaver: "Today was a demonstration of the capabilities of French and Canadian soldiers to work together in a very complex and demanding mission." The troops will be given another chance to work together next year when the French-Canadians will be hosting the French in their area of responsibility.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: France, Canada
Training and Exercises