Pelicano Operation

Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#132, February 14, 2002

A platoon of Spanish Marines from the Spanish Battle Group (SBG) conducted a rapid rescue training exercise called "Pelican III" Jan. 25. The mission was to prevent SFOR members in a vulnerable location from being captured or suffering injury. The Pelicano procedure is an airborne extraction operation similar to air assault operations. It is extremely fast and its target is to recover people, classified documents and equipment.

Leotar Mountain - The fog came in thick patches on top of Leotar Mountain, near Duzi in Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE). Breaking through the white cloud with a gust of wind was a Spanish assault force inside two Italian helicopters, flying toward to the signals centre on Leotar. Aircraft number one contained a rescue team and aircraft number two had the security team. While aircraft number one hovered over the centre, visually reconnoitering the area and providing cover, the security team's aircraft landed and eight soldiers quickly exited the chopper.
"Our mission for this exercise is simple," said Staff Sgt. José Francisco Molina. "We have to do two things: reconnoitre the area, checking that there is no threat to the rescue; and block the road to insulate the zone."
The team worked quickly, searching the perimeter and securing positions around the road and the signals centre so that helicopter two could take off and provide fire support from above. Meanwhile helicopter number one, with the rescue team on board, landed. Six men deployed from the helicopter and ran to establish support positions.
The manoeuvre
"Our job is to rescue SFOR members and classified material," said 1st Lt. Antonio Jesús Rincón Pérez. "We have to be prepared to fight to obtain them if necessary."
On the mountaintop, the rescue team searched for and located the signal team, took the classified material from them, and returned to the helicopter. Once they were all on board, the lead aircraft took off and turned to cover the withdrawal of the support team. The take-off of the second helicopter signalled the end of the exercise. The whole drill took only 30 minutes.
The planning
"This kind of operation has to completely planned. We must know in precise detail the terrain and the area where we have to work," said Rincon. "The only additional information we would need is the type of threat. We must be ready to act even in situations where we have no contact with the threatened personnel and the threat is unknown."
"Currently the threat is low, but you never know when that could change. When I'm taking part in these training exercises I realise that anything could happen. Then I feel useful to my team," said Molina.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Italy, Spain
Training and Exercises

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Photos: Staff Sgt. Lisa M. Simpson

The Italian pilots confer with Spanish Marines at the beginning of Pelican III.


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The platoon sergeant checks to see where his soldiers are.


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The Italian helicopter lands on top of Leotar Mountain.


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Spanish Marines secure positions along the narrow ridge between the helipad and the signal tower while helicopter two flies away.