Joint Steel on Manjaca Training Area

Lt. Ralph Mooijekind
First published in
SFOR Informer#148, September 26, 2002

The name of the recently held Netherlands Battle Group's exercise Joint Steel was not a name that was randomly chosen. Joint Steel refers to the Dutch Leopard 2 A5 tanks and Bosnian-Serb T55 and M84 tanks that participated. The exercise was held on the Manjaca Training Area near Banja Luka Sept. 10-12.

Manjaca - of the Armed Forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) at SFOR exercises have been a common sight in recent years. Taking this a step further is the actual taking part of the Army of Republika Srpska (Vojska Republika Srpska, VRS) in an SFOR exercise. This step was recently taken by the 42nd Mechanised Battalion, which is the official name of the Netherlands Battle Group (NLBG) that is headquartered in Bugojno.

More than an exercise for the tank-crews
"At first this training was a planned regular exercise for our tank crews," explained Maj. Hans Van Dalen, 2IC of the NLBG. "But to make it a special occasion we decided to invite the 101st Armoured Brigade of the VRS. After that had been arranged we called the exercise -- for obvious reasons -- Joint Steel. Also it is a good opportunity for 'showing the force'. There is a reason for having tanks in the Battle Group and the Multinational Division South West (MND-SW). We want to show what our Leopards are capable of."
In order to get to know each other on the first day of the exercise the Dutch and the Bosnian-Serbs organised a static display show.
"We got the chance to study each other's military equipment. They looked inside our tank and were amazed that it is filled with all kinds of electronics. Most of their equipment works mechanically. But, if this is what works, they say it is okay for them, commented Sgt. 1st class Dick Krul from the 42 (NL) Mechanised Battalion. During Joint Steel several live-firing exercises were held. Not only with tanks, but also with anti-tank weapons like the Dragon that the Dutch infantry uses.

VIPs on the spot
The training got a high profile when Maj. Gen. Tony Van Diepenbrugge, commander MND-SW attended the exercise just two days before his Transfer of Authority to Brig. Gen. Andrew Farquhar. Also present were Gen. Maj. Novak Djukic commanding the Banja Luka based 1st Corps Headquarters of the VRS. The Netherlands newly appointed Under-secretary of Defence Cees Van der Knaap who visited the Dutch troops in Novi Travnik and Bugojno also came to Manjaca Training Area to see this example of co-operation.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Netherlands
SFOR at Work
Training and Exercises

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Photos: Cpl. Simon Butcher

A Serbian M-84 tank moves out during the exercise.

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Cpl. Roger Gelderland (l.) and Cpl. Eelco Bontsema of the NL Battlegroup with a Serbian soldier on a Serbian M-84 tank from the 101st Armoured Brigade VRS.

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Sgt. 1st Class Dick Krul with a Bosnian-Serb soldier on a Leopard 2 A5 (back right).

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Several items of Leopard 2 A5 equipment to include binoculars, a 7.62 millimetre coax and tower machine guns, GPS, 7.62 millimetre ammunition and night vision binoculars