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Ex Encouraging Lion

By CPO Tim Adams
First published in
SFOR Informer #88, May 24, 2000

Sisava - The angry crowd pelted the Multinational Specialised Unit (MSU) with potatoes, onions, paint, chunks of wood and water bottles using an intensity and fervour that made it hard to believe that this was just a training exercise. At one point in the scenario, some rioters used pallets and boards that had not yet been consumed by their bonfire to bash and break at least 12 of the shields crowd control teams were using to protect themselves.

Even thought this high-tension, adrenaline pumping action produced bumps and bruises, it was all worth it to adequately train the different units in Multinational Division-Southwest (MND-SW) to deal with demonstrations against SFOR that get out of control according to Canadian Maj. Bob Near, Training and Planning Officer. "It was a good eye opener and we learned a lot of good practical lessons," said Near. But he also stressed that the commanders in charge learned as much as the troops on the ground.

The combination of British, Canadian and Dutch team members in MND-SW and the assets they bring to crowd control are new and unique. Two other elements have also been made available to the commander's toolbox for use in riot control; the MSU unit and the Aviation Package. The MSU in this case were Argentinean National Gendarmerie, specially trained and with wide experience in both police activities and military operations. They also employ specialised equipment to quickly and effectively control and disperse unruly crowds.

They are stationed in Sarajevo with elements from Italy, Slovenia and Romania, under command of HQ SFOR, but can be quickly transferred to MNDs to combat any perceived threats or to increase SFOR's presence in a particular area. The aviation package included U.S. Kiowa and Apache helicopters equipped with video cameras. They can transmit live video feed of crowd behaviour to the battle group command post. "This was our first time to work with all these players, so there was no command doctrine to follow, we had to develop it ourselves," explained Near.

The three-day exercise began at Banja Luka with a planning conference where the scenario and training objectives were carefully laid out. On the second day, the 3rd Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry worked with two platoons of the Argentine National Gendarmeria to handle 80 unruly, volunteer demonstrators at the Metal Factory in Banja Luka.

The exercise moved to Sisava on the third day where the 101st Hussars of Prince Alexander's Dutch Mechanised Battalion teamed up with the UK Divisional Reserve of the King's Own Royal Boarder Regiment and the Argentine MSU to quell two violent, anti-SFOR training riots.

The training scenarios started with a SFOR patrol encountering civilian demonstrators. First local police were brought in with help from the IPTF (International Police Task Force) to try and find out the reason for the demonstration and to disperse the crowd peacefully. "As the disturbance becomes bigger and escalates, there is a period where the commander must decide when to engage the MSU," said Dutch Maj. Kees Bakx, MND-SW Training Officer. He went on to explain that one of the most critical and difficult moments in these situations happens when the decision is made to transfer command and control to the MSU.

In the Encouraging Lion exercise, the crowd continued to grow in size and became too violent for the MSU to handle safely, so the UK Divisional Reserve was called in. It was accompanied by more heavily armed personnel and heavier equipment, like Grizzly APCs for the Canadians and Warrior AFVs for the British.

Related links:
Training and Exercises
The Nations of SFOR: UK
The Nations of SFOR: Argentina
The Nations of SFOR: Netherlands