Lt. Eric Bouysson
First published in
SFOR Informer#132, February 14, 2002
Gurkha units first served with the British Army in 1815.
Gurkha soldiers, who are actually citizens of Nepal, are still
serving with the British Army. The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR)
have been deployed in many countries and are now in the Balkans.
Manjaca - As an operational reserve component for the Multinational
Division Southwest (MND-SW), Gurkhas are frontline. Comprised
of a total of three regiments, the Gurkha Rifle Regiments
rotate postings every three years. While one is in SFOR, one
is based in Brunei specialising in jungle warfare and the
other regiment serves in the United Kingdom. Until 1997 there
was a regiment in Hong Kong prior to the peninsula's return
to mainland China.
Always ready for short-notice taskings, before coming to Bosnia
and Herzegovina (BiH) the 2nd RGR kept the peace in Sierra
Leone in 2001. Maj. Paul Fitch Fork, commander of 2nd RGR's
B Company, explained that while they still retain their Nepalese
citizenship, Gurkhas are now fully integrated into the British
Army: "They continue to serve the Crown; they have sworn
an oath to the Queen."
In SFOR, B company now hones its marksmanship skills at a
Manjaca range shared with the Republika Srpska Army (Vojska
Republika Srpska, VRS) and SFOR British and Canadian battle
groups from MND-SW.
As elite forces, versatility is one of their key-assets. The
unit has rapidly converted to mechanised infantry using Saxon
Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and it trains with a full
collection of military hardware including anti-armour weapons.
Training at the range included a conflict scenario, fine-tuning
the unit's riot-control tactics. One platoon-level live-fire
manoeuvre featured the successful launch of a self-propelled
grenade into a tank. Such skills must be maintained to fulfill
their mission in BiH and to prepare for an upcoming battalion-level
exercise in Canada.
Modern tactics and ancient skills
The British Army has a wealth of experience in riot-control
tactics. The Ghurka unit serving the British Army here is
pioneering the use of helicopters to allow a round-the-clock,
immediate riot-control response.
"The Chinook is coming from Split and is flown by very
proficient Dutch pilots. We have been training to embark and
disembark this morning between tactical flight rotations,
both rapidly and safely," explains Maj. Fitch Fork. The
Chinook, a heavy-duty helicopter, also transports vehicles,
which, according to Fork, had never been done before. "We
would send troops and some of our vehicles to the hot spot,
while the remaining ones would come by road. With helicopters,
we can secure a flexible and rapid reaction to prevent violence
from escalating." Weather permitting, the Gurkhas can
deploy very fast with the ability to bypass most blocked roads.
Prior to arriving in BiH, Nepalese Capt. Dilkumar Rai had
completed a special course in crowd and riot control, which
was provided by the OPTAG (Operational Training and Advisory
Group). Having received the latest training, he has passed
these skills to his unit.
"A company-level exercise has been set up to give the
soldiers confidence in their skills where Molotov cocktails
will be thrown at them," explained Rai. Further training
will include feedback from their tour in BiH "so that
others can be briefed and benefit from the lessons learned."
Riot-control tactics are nothing new to the Gurkhas. Though
not practised in Brunei, they accumulated experience while
posted in Hong Kong, long before riot control became a prominent
topic for NATO armed forces in Europe. CSgt. Bishner Tamang
recalled, "As a young Gurkha, some years ago, I had been
practising those low-level intensity conflict skills so the
training is not completely new to us.
"Today I am concentrating on administrative tasks for
the company but I keep my eyes wide open. We will participate
in a major exercise in about one month, called Joint Resolve
Daily contribution to a secure environment
When not training or intervening as the Divisional Operational
Reserve, the 2nd RGR is contributing towards the SFOR mission
of a safe and secure environment in BiH. Patrols and armament-harvest
operations are conducted on a regular basis, as well as support
activities including dissemination of psyops materials. Typical
tasks, said Cpt. Fraser Rea, "include the supervision
and consolidation of VRS weapon storage sites." Force
protection is not overlooked either, insists Rea, and is achieved
through a general policy of force projection. "We do
not want to remain static and therefore maintain our presence
on the ground."
From the hot jungles of Brunei to the winters of the Balkans,
the Gurkhas can do the job and play a key role in the SFOR
Nations of SFOR: UK
Training and Exercises