Freezing Storm a success

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Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker
First published in
SFOR Informer#146, August 29, 2002

From Aug. 21-23 exercise Operation Freezing Storm took place in the region of Mostar located in Multinational Division South-East (MND-SE), as well as the town of Nevesinje. According to an MND-SE spokesman: "The purpose of the exercise is to check the readiness and capabilities of SFOR units to react in unexpected situations that jeopardise the stability in the region." One portion of the exercise included a scenario where opposition forces, known as Hot Wind, acted as would-be thieves and overran a weapon's storage facility where they stole a number of weapons and took hostages. Once members of Operation Freezing Storm located the smugglers whereabouts, the mission of the day was to capture the members of Hot Wind while at the same time safely extracting the hostages.

Nevesinje - Operation Freezing Storm is part of a larger training scenario called Exercise Paladin. The event kicked off with a series of attacks occurring in the Areas of Responsibility (AoR) for the three MNDs throughout the month of July. According to the investigations, members of the extremeist group Hot Wind conducted the attacks. This particular group has strong ties to a radical political party. Hot Wind's goal is to disrupt the calm and stable situation in the country.
Hot times for MND-SE
"Freezing Storm is a Paladin type exercise. We call Paladin the exercise where we exercise the employment of the tactical reserve of the division, which is one company of all the battle groups. Now in the exercise the French Battle Group was tasked to catch the bad guys who stole the weapons, they were reinforced by one Spanish company and one German platoon. There are also helicopters from the Multinational Army Aviation Battalion (MNAAvBn)," said Maj. Luis Gomez-Vilanova, Spanish Army, Training and Exercise Cell, G-5, Headquarters MND-SE.
The group works together to overtake the tents where members of Hot Wind are hiding out along with two French soldier hostages. A French Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle scouts the area looking for the tents. Just minutes earlier helicopters from the MNAAvBn have dropped off a platoon of French Infantry soldiers. Upon landing they immediately drop to the ground and quickly make their way into the cover of the wood-line so as not to be detected by the Hot Wind radicals. The infantry move stealthily through the brush, away from the Landing Zone, Hot Wind doesn't stand a chance.
The Great Escape
Nestled in a picturesque valley in the mountainous region of Nevesinje, sit two anonymous looking tents. However, the activity inside of the tents is less than inconspicuous. Two hostages sit bound to plain metal chairs. Members of Hot Wind are yelling at them and tormenting them. One hostage endures a face full of cold water - the radical taunts him and keeps pouring more water down his face.
Little known to the radicals is that the Infantry Platoon are quietly making their way through the woods and toward the tents. Freedom is right around the corner for the hostages.
Suddenly there is a flurry of activity. The infantry make their way out of surrounding bushes and thickets. They overtake the Hot Wind tents in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately the radicals received warning of the infiltration by Freezing Storm and left shortly before they arrived - thankfully they left the hostages behind. The two victims were rescued and unbound by the first troops who moved in. The remaining forces headed into the valley where they quickly tracked down and subdued the radicals. The two hostages are now free, but for members of Hot Wind, their freedom has quickly ended.
Hands in the air
With the hostages safely removed from the tents, the mission appears to be over. But not quite yet, two of the Hot Wind radicals have been captured. The Infantry Platoon escorts them at gunpoint with hands over their heads back to the tent area. They are ordered to kneel on the ground and keep their hands in sight. The troops begin questioning the radicals; the air is thick with anticipation. The radicals are surrounded by a squad of soldiers pointing FAMAS assault rifles at them, the slightest indication of escape and they will be fired upon. After lengthy questioning the radicals are ordered to lie flat on the ground. They are restrained and will be taken into custody. The officers observing the exercise deem the mission a success. The radicals have been captured and the extraction of the hostages went smoothly.
Players in the game
For Capt. Guillaume Raulet, Company Commander, 3rd C Coy, 21st Infantry Marine Regiment, the exercise went well.
"It was an exercise that we are used to doing quite a lot, but it is always interesting to work with members of the Spanish Coy who co-ordinated the event," he said.
Though this type of training is all part of a day's work for these infantry troops, there is always the challenge of making sure things run according to plan.
"The most difficult thing is to locate the position of the enemy and then when we know exactly where he is to infiltrate and get as close as possible to make the assault," he said.
Taking part in that assault was French Cpl. Arnaud Demaret, team chief, C Coy, 21st Infantry Marine Regiment. Even though his company recently returned from a real-world deployment in Afghanistan, the chance to be stationed and train in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a welcome one.
"It was fun, everything was done well - like the helicopter transport and the hostage exercise," he said. Thanks to the combined efforts of Multi-National forces in MND-SE Operation Freezing Storm was a success. As described by one of the troops on the ground, the names were a perfect match. You had radical bad guys called Hot Wind; it could only take a Freezing Storm to bring them down and put them out.

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

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Photos: PO Susan Rose

Air support is provided by the Multinational Army Aviation Battalion.


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Radio communication is a critical part of the mission for these infantry troops.


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Spanish and French soldiers discuss the mission of extracting the hostages.


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This French infantry soldier carefully guards two captured members of Hot Wind.


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A successful capture provided by a member of 3rd C Coy, 21st Infantry Marine Regiment.


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Steady is the aim for this soldier as he keeps a sharp eye out for members of Hot Wind.


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Hot Wind radicals torment a hostage held at their hideout during Operation Freezing Storm.