Just like five fingers on a hand

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Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#138, May 9, 2002

Exercise "Joint Resolve XXVI" took place in Multinational Division South-east (MND-SE) April 22 - 28. Its aim was to test the inter-operability of the division's battle groups, amongst themselves and with other SFOR units. The main event occurred April 26, with an evacuation exercise of members of the International Community. French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and US troops were involved.

Bravenik - The scenario was as follows: since the previous day, a small group of members of an International Organisation (IO) have taken refuge in an office, surrounded by an angry crowd. Law and order must prevail, and they must be freed. The law enforcement teams of the Entities' police forces are responsible for responding to these types of missions but if unable to intervene for any reason, SFOR's Multinational Specialised Unit (MSU) takes the lead. If the unrest continues to grow, the Portuguese Operational Reserve, Ground, (OPRES, G) is called in as reinforcement.

The OPRES (G) is based in Visoko. It is a theatre unit, meaning it is able and ready to intervene in all three MNDs to support SFOR troops as needed.
The exercise took place on the training range of Bravenik, near Duzi, in the Spanish area of responsibility. Thus, the armed intervention must be co-ordinated with the Spanish soldiers, but also with US helicopters from OPRES (Air), reinforced with a German helicopter from the Multi-National Army Aviation Battalion, belonging to MND-SE. One recce squadron of the French Battle Group was also involved.

Flurry of military activity
The first company of the Spanish Battle Group, from the "La Reina II" Regiment, starts to deploy in two waves around the mob. They first establish an external perimeter called "Green Box." Its aim is to prevent any new demonstrator from entering the area. Inside this box, they deploy a second security cordon, called "Blue Box," in order to hold the crowd in check.
Spanish troops deploy under surveillance of four Kiowa helicopters from OPRES Air, equipped with machine guns but also with TV and thermal cameras and one laser. American Capt. Andrew McIntyre explains: "The cameras allow us to shoot numeric pictures and transmit them in real time to the Tactical Command Post (TCP), on the field." The TCP uses the pictures to keep troops deployed on the ground informed about how the situation is developing. Two Kiowas keep watch over the demonstrators, while two others control the approach to the area.

A secured Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) is established by the Spanish between the inner and outer cordons. Later, three Black Hawks drop the first group of 30 soldiers from OPRES Ground followed by 30 more soldiers dropped by the Germans. The Portuguese wear their anti-riot equipment.
This is also the time when the commanding officer of the Portuguese troops meets his Spanish counterpart at the Incident Control Point (ICP) for an evaluation of the situation. "The most difficult point is to co-ordinate the troop movements of my unit with the transportation helicopters and the Portuguese Company," explains Capt. Francisco Paul, commanding the Spanish unit.

Unharmed, unhurt
After unsuccessful negotiations with the demonstrators, the Portuguese quickly move under the protection of the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), towards the barricade erected by the rioters. They get over the obstacle by charging it and are joined by a Portuguese APC. The three sections of law enforcement are deployed in a triangle formation around the APC. Arriving close to the place where the members of the IO have taken refuge, a team launches an attack, climbs up the stairs and frees the prisoners. They are sheltered in the APC, which withdraws, always under the protection of the law enforcement team, towards the "Green Box." "
You must be fast and efficient to ensure that lives are not endangered," underlines Capt. Luis Escorrega, commanding the second Company of OPRES Ground.

When the junction is effected, the APC is escorted by Spanish BMR to the assembly point, Camp Duzi, home to the Spanish Marines. Two Kiowas continue to monitor them. Immediately after, Black Hawks and a CH-53 land and pick up OPRES Ground in an area located between the two 'boxes' and under surveillance of the two remaining Kiowas.
Once in Duzi, the convoy joins the recce squadron of the FRBG, comprised of elements of the 1st and 2nd Hunter Regiment. Capt. Jean-Pascal Griffon commands this squadron. The mission of the 25 armoured vehicles is to secure about 100 kilometres of road from Duzi to Mostar Airport, where a plane is waiting for the rescued hostages.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Spain, Portugal
Training and Exercises

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Photo: PO Susan Rose

Portuguese soldiers from OPRES Ground move toward the crowd protected by the Spanish BMR.


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Black Hawk helicopters are landing under the protection of the Kiowas (in the bakground).


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Capt. Luis Escorrega, commanding the Portuguese unit, moves closer to the rioters for negotiating under the protection of his men and a Spanish vehicle.


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The Portuguese OPRES Ground is picked out by the CH-53.


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The Spanish unit is constantly informed about the evolution of the situation through radio links with survey helicopters.


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Portuguese anti-riot sections protect the ATC which is going to deliver the besieged.


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American Black Hawks approach a landing zone, that is secured by Spanish troops.


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OPRES Ground is waiting for intervention.