Tramontane joint MSU- FRBG exercise

Capt. Benoit Guilloux
First published in
SFOR Informer#145, August 15, 2002

On August 7, a Multinational Special Unit (MSU) -French Battle Group (FRBG) joint exercise took place in Vrapicici, north of Mostar in MND SE (Multinational Division South East). The main intent was to practice the coordination between company commanders should a situation of unrest arise and imply the use of the MSU in support of a BG, in this instance the French. The FRBG is primarily composed of legionnaires from the Foreign Legion Armoured Cavalry Regiment (1er REC) and Marines (Troupes de marine) both Infantry and Artillery.

Vrapicici - Ex 'Tramontane' is to practice and familiarise on the minimisation of riot-type gatherings of over 20 people. In this hypothetical case, these hard-liners are protesting against the return of DPREs (Displaced Persons and Refugees) in their former area where there is supposedly a tense atmosphere. The mission of the FR BG is to protect their return. The MSU comes into action when the rioters are to be arrested. It was the first live exercise for the MSU Alpha Coy members; both Hungarians and Italians have been currently certified. Three platoons made up of two Italian and one Hungarian took part in the event under the command of lLt. Akos Tajti. The Italian commanding officer was Capt. Virginio Favente. This represents approximately 30 percent of the MSU as its personnel are made up of Hungarians, Romanians and Slovenians along with the remainder of Italian troops.

Contact with hard-liners
There was to be different phases with interventions, interphase, redeployment, and interventions again. The exercise was organised and led by the FRBG, which had authority over the participating companies. 1st REC Maj. Nicolas Casanova was the Operations Officer for the event. A Canadian LAV III crew (Light Armoured Vehicle) and a Spanish platoon were also involved in this multinational exercise.

Blue and green boxes
The MSU's intervention is made within an imaginary area called the 'blue box' whereas the zone handled by the BG is designated as the 'green box'. The exercise will be done three times in turn with the three BG companies. Firstly, the green troops arrive. They close the surrounding area in order to deter any reinforcements for the hardliners and to isolate them. Negotiations, a key matter in a real case, are then carried out with the help of the local police as well as the International Police Task Force (IPTF). Only then, the MSU, in the minimum format of a company arrives. The MSU commander will try to negotiate again at least once if not twice before showing any force, intervention being the last step. It can be destroying a barricade, pushing a crowd or, as was the case in this exercise, arrest every hardliner. Hungarian Capt. Ferenz Pinter, MSU Liaison Officer, agreed that "the legionnaires did a very good and realistic job. It seems they can treat and solve any problem that would arise. The idea of the FRBG to carry out the exercise in this particular terrain was great."

Equipment varies and men remain
Prior to the exercise, the MSU troops put their equipment on display to the attention of the French soldiers. French Foreign Legion gunner on APC, Lance Cpl. X* comments: "The way they use their shields and batons is interesting really. I must say I have never fought against a real riot to this day. I wish to know more on how they handle it," he said. Marines French Sgt. Frederic Robert from 21st RIMA comments: "I am coordinating with my platoon using the means of communication that I have. I have just been following from a distance how the Italians proceed."
Needless to say that a third half took place in Mostar-Ortijes camp during the evening.

* The French Foreign Legion has a policy on anonymity for its personnel.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Italy, Hungary, France

Training and Exercises

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Photos: Capt. Benoit Guilloux

FRBG company commander (middle) discusses the situation with MSU company commander (Italian). The MSU troop, here the Hungarians, are ready to enter into action.


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Charge on a group of hardliners played by the legionnaires of the FR BG.


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The aim was to practice the co-ordination between company commanders should a situation of unrest arise and require the use of the Multinational Specialised Unit in support of a battle group, in this case the French one.


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Hungarian MSU progress using their own Tactics and Techniques Procedures (TTPs).


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MSU (Italian Carabineers) en route to the blue box.