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Exercise Buccaneer

By Sgt. William Wilczewski
First published in
SFOR Informer #83, March 15, 2000

Nevesinje - In order to test their reaction capabilities and multinational co-operation proficiency, Spanish and French soldiers of Multinational Division South East (MND-SE), along with Italian soldiers from HQ SFOR (Sarajevo), conducted Exercise Buccaneer Feb. 23 - 25 in Nevesinje, approximately 50 km south east of Mostar.

The exercise began with a large influx of displaced persons into the Spanish Battle Group's AOR (area of responsibility) near Gacko. Upon command request, French soldiers were asked to provide aid to the Spanish by splitting their AOR and carrying on with the joint unit mission.

After a hand over of responsibility, the French Battle Group took control of four main border points (two in Gacko and two in Nevesinje) and practised refugee escort, safeguarding, and processing procedures in a make-shift transit camp. The Italian MSU (Multinational Specialised Unit) was called into action on two occasions to squelch staged demonstrations by extremists against SFOR, and the local population against the OHR (Office of the High Representatives.)

"It's very important training because we need to have close contact with the troops that we support in the field," said MSU Company B Commander Capt. Aldo Rosa. "It's important to show the military units our capability, our kind of activity, and procedures."

During the exercise, "hostile forces" attempted to infiltrate with the use of artillery and mortar fire were encountered. SFOR was able to block these "aggressors" with an Apache-led helo-born operation. Troops also encountered mined terrain, which was neutralised by a section of engineers. Other activities resulted in only one "wounded refugee."

"The main difficulty in this environment is the co-ordination between allies…the problem of language, and different techniques," said French Maj. Pierre Hery, deputy operations officer of the French Battle Group, when asked of the importance of this exercise. "This gives us the chance to test all our procedures…and the tactical reserve of MND-SE in a realistic operation."

According to Pierre, the increase in these types of exercises in MND-SE seems to be a result of SFOR's restructuring. "At the beginning we used to ensure our presence with permanent forces. Now with the restructuring, we have to be able to react. This kind of exercise shows to the population that we can react very quickly and project large forces on the terrain. With these exercises, we can solve little problems and make better plans."

Rosa, happy with the outcome of the exercise, added, "I think the French troops are well orientated to this kind of job. We worked very well together."