By Capt. Vance White
First published in
SFOR Informer#129, December 26, 2001
The lanyard quivered, taut as a bowstring in
the bitterly cold air. For one moment longer, the only sound was
the whisper of the knife-sharp wind across the snow-covered plain.
Then a single barked command broke the silence: "FIRE!"
Exercise Balkan Gunner had begun.
Glamoc - It started on Dec. 6 with the United Kingdom
Battle Group (UKBG) Mortar Platoon of Gurkha soldiers and the
gunners of 127 (Dragon) Battery joining Canada's Romeo Battery
at its home in Glamoc. The training brought units from the Canadian,
Dutch and United Kingdom battle groups together to test their
interoperability and effectiveness in giving indirect fire support
under one command element.
exercise marked the first time, for this rotation, that the newly
formed Offensive Support Group (OSG) Headquarters had the opportunity
to work together with its sub-units in theatre. The OSG is commanded
by Lt. Col. André Harvey, commanding officer of 5e Regiment
d'Artillerie Légère du Canada (5e RALC), from Valcartier,
"The OSG is an independent manoeuvre unit that combines all
indirect fire assets under one commanding officer to be employed
by the division commander," said Harvey. "It would normally
be used as a 'show of force' asset by demonstrating its capabilities.
The guns themselves are a deterrent, but combining the units maximises
the deterrent effect."
main objective of Exercise Balkan Gunner was to ensure the units
involved could work together. Such teamwork is called interoperability.
"We want to standardise the way we do business," explained
Harvey, who is very enthusiastic about the opportunity to command
troops from different nations. "We need to bring two batteries
of artillery and a mortar platoon together on the same targets
at the same time. We need to ensure we have similar standards
With the various technologies and equipment employed by the different
units, some procedures were simplified. The "interoperability
bugs" were worked out in the one-day Command Post Exercise
(CPX) so the two-day Live Fire Exercise (LFX) went ahead without
incident. It was only the sub-zero weather that slowed things
down. Partial visibility due to blowing snow limited the ability
of Forward Observation Officers (FOOs) to call for rounds to be
sent down range.
the weather, I think the exercise went very well," said Royal
Artillery Capt. Charlie Anderson, 127 (Dragon) Battery FOO and
MND-SW HQ G3 Artillery staff officer. "The modified procedures
we used to bring fire down worked for both the British and Canadian
guns as well as the Gurkha mortars. If called upon, the OSG will
be very effective."
"We've worked through the interoperability issues. If and
when we're needed, we'll be ready," said Harvey near the
end of the exercise. "I'm very confident with the leadership
and soldiers in the units."
from the HQ element of 13 Canadian personnel from Valcartier,
the units that make up the OSG are Romeo Battery, the Canadian
LG1 105mm light howitzer based in Glamoc, and 127 (Dragon) Battery,
the British 155mm mechanised AS90 guns based in Sipovo. For the
exercise, the Royal Gurkha Rifles Mortar Platoon with its 81mm
mortars was deployed and a tank platoon from the Netherlands Battle
Group simulated the manoeuvre element with its Leopard II tanks.
These units are employed by their respective battle groups during
normal framework operations, but would be brought together under
the OSG command element for a specific operation if the division
commander felt it necessary in a particularly tense situation.
Attack helicopters and "fast air" could also be brought
under OSG command if deemed necessary.
Nations of SFOR: Canada,