Downpour of Ammunition

2Lt. Agustín López Marín
First published in
SFOR Informer#154, December 19, 2002

Dec. 4, the Spanish-French Battle Group (SPFRBG) stationed in Europe Base, Mostar organised a live-fire exercise. Facing the high wooded mountains on the firing range of Macipolje, the troops belonging to the SPFRBG spent whole day training hard to enhance their combat skills.

Macipolje - Two platoons from the Spanish Light Cavalry Squadron (LCS) and one from the French Marine Reconnaissance Squadron took part in this exercise in high winds and heavy rainstorms.
Firing drills
The day started with a tactical movement of the armoured vehicles from Europe Base to the range, passing through Nevesinje. Every unit had a different departure time. Security, ammunition control and the Spanish medical assistance were co-ordinated by 1Lt. Paul Kaeser, assigned to the3rd platoon, French Marine Reconnaissance Squadron (MRS). He led the French unit composed of five VBLs (Light Armoured Vehicles), one VAB (Armoured Personnel Carrier), one truck and one light vehicle P4. "This shooting test comprised of some trials with different types of weapons - HK G36E and FAMAS 5.56mm Self Loading Rifles (SLR), 7.62mm. Machine-guns, BMR (Armoured Personnel Carrier) and VBL 12.70mm gun -. Firstly in static firing lines exchanging weapons; then, the BMR 12.7 mm hydraulic gun turret firing at 500 metres and tactical attacks with VBLs giving covering fire by bounds while the infantry advanced," said Kaeser.
Main purpose
This exercise represents one of the first joint activities between French and Spanish troops. 1Lt. David Gil Mora, 1st platoon, LCS, was the commander of the Spanish unit composed of two Nissan Light Vehicles, two REBECOs (similar to the HUMVEE) and one BMR. "The main aim of this activity is to train and improve skills of our troops and to increase their knowledge of their technical weapon characteristics by sharing their own small arms. We have to check the readiness and capabilities of units, according to our general guidelines, providing an effective reaction in unexpected situations that could jeopardise the stability in the region," said Gil.
HK G36E versus FAMAS
Spanish Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Freire Gutiérrez belongs to the 4th platoon, Spanish Light Cavalry Squadron, and is on his second peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Asked about the exercise, Freire said: "These type of firing trials are designed to prepare soldiers to qualify for realistic combat situations. We try to teach the soldiers to improve their firing skills, which are steady position, a correct aim, breathing control and a light trigger movement."
After shooting with the FAMAS SLR, Freire said: "From my particular point of view, the HK G36E has some advantages. I can mention that the HK SLR is handier and is equipped with an improved aiming system, telescopic sight has a measured reticule but I have to admit that FAMAS SLR has some features and devices, which I like. For instance, its bipod, rate of fire and maximum effective range." Spanish troops were delighted with the features and capabilities of the VBL, considering it a versatile vehicle capable of carrying out a variety of missions.
French Staff Sgt. Fabrice Rautureau, assigned to the MRS, recognises that HK G36E is a good SLR. Rautureau has a great experience in missions abroad and this is his third mission in BiH following tours in 1992 and 1994 under the United Nations (UNPROFOR) mandate. He said: "The main aim, in this initial period of the joint SPFRBG unit, apart to accustom ourselves to the weather and theatre, is to establish effective battle techniques and tactics, practising common command and control procedures."

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

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Photos: Sgt. Diego Ropero Pastor

The French squad advances, providing firing support for each other. VBLs are equipped with 7.62mm and 12.70mm guns.


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Pfc's Konarkowski (l.) and Avila talk about the features of FAMAS and HK G36E SLRs.


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1Lts Gil (r.) and Kaeser discuss the final details before starting the live-fire training.


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Spanish Sgt. 1st Class Freire is an expert marksman.