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Strong Guardian

By Sgt. Michael Maddox
First published in
SFOR Informer #96, September 13, 2000

Glamoc - Forces from across Multinational Division Southwest converged on Glamoc Range Aug. 31 to conduct Operation Strong Guardian, an exercise where British, Czech and Canadian forces took on an enemy force played by Dutch soldiers.
None of that would have been possible without another exercise, Joint Resolve, where the Portuguese Battle Group filled in British positions while Strong Guardian was being conducted. Thanks to that effort, a British headquarters, a Czech company and a Canadian recce squadron were able to take part in the imaginary war.
The morning of the battle started out slowly as the sun climbed the sky, but that soon changed and the fight was on.
"We kept our eyes on them all night, it's been a very quiet night. We had blocking positions around them to keep them from moving out," said British Maj. Mark Lee, second in command during the exercise. "This morning they loaded up their vehicles and the majority headed off towards our positions, we were quite happy to block them. They have now just swung around and headed off in a northwesterly direction toward another blocking position."
From there, the battle began and forces began to engage one another. To aid in this imaginary war, special measures were taken to make the exercise run smoothly and fairly though the use of umpires for each side because there was no other way to signify hits on targets.
"We obviously aren't in a position to simulate the live firing of the guns and all small caliber weapons are using blank ammunition during the exercise," said Lee. "The larger caliber of weapo's firing is being simulated through the headlights being flashed and the umpires communicating with each other."
According to Maj. Damian Hoskins, tank squadron leader for the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, there were several reasons why blank fire was a good idea.
"We are multi national, so nothing works across the board to register hits," he said. "We will be prepared to fire, but in reality we aren't firing live ammunition because the SFOR force will be out there playing a real enemy."
Lee said coordinating the blank fire was one of the toughest parts of the operation.
"We travelled with arms and loaded weapons, and yet to come onto the exercise, we had to come into a stagnant pause where we completely unloaded all of the soldiers with their live and replaced it with blanks," he said. Lee added, the Canadian Battle Group conducted security around the training exercise so the soldiers would not need to carry live ammunition.
The movement to Glamoc was the second most difficult part of the mission, said Lee.
"We formed up at Manjaca Range and that was an exercise in itself," he explained. "We had 200 vehicles from 15 units, seven locations, from nine routes to go to the replan position there. We managed to do that. We were then given our orders and moved through the night to Glamoc."
All of the work was definitely worth the effort, according to Lee. He said there was a huge benefit to performing the exercise.
"Should push come to shove, we can actually form up as a multinational battle group and do the job that we are over here to do," he said. "Also, we are able to enhance our abilities over and above what we do everyday."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK, Czech Republic, Canada
Exercices and training
Related articles: Portuguese support, Polish support