Wandering nomads in 'Ruins Rebirth 3' Exercise
2Lt. Agustín López
First published April 25, 2003
From 17 to 19 April 2003, diverse units belonging to the
Spanish-French Battle Group (SPFRBG), Multinational Brigade
Southeast (MNB-SE), performed several activities included
in the 'Ruins Rebirth 3' Exercise. This operation took place
in the opstinas (municipalities) of Nevesinje, Gacko, Bileca
and Berkovici. The main goal was to deploy all units on the
field and conduct normal tactical and CIMIC activities through
a mobile command post.
Gacko - The staff was installed in Kula, a hamlet situated
five kilometres from Gacko. There was a frenetic activity
to establish the tactical command post and to maintain continuous
communication with all the Companies through dedicated signal
vehicles. French Capt. Ronan de Cadoudal, S-3 current operations
officer, controlled the exercise. "This operation allowed
us to develop our normal activities, leading the subordinated
units from a mobile command post. Besides, we can demonstrate
SFOR's presence in the area, assess the BG operational abilities
and strengthen our cohesion and methods of working; at the
same time, familiarise our units with the area," he stated.
Co-operation with local army
On Apr. 17, the Spanish Infantry Marine Coy had to monitor
an air defence firing exercise performed by the Army of the
Republika Srpska (Vojska Republike Srpske, VRS) in the 'Bilecki
Borci' barracks, located in Bileca. Lt. David Alarcón
Nicolás, 2nd platoon, commanded the unit in charge
of this task. "The VRS requested for training dry firing
of three pieces AA Guns-30/2 and four AA Guns-20/3. Our mission
today is to verify that this action is in accordance with
the Instructions to Parties (ITP) and conducted only during
the approved times. This agreement means that it is not possible
to use live AAA ammunition in the area where training is taking
place. Also, we ensure that blank or dummy round, pyrotechnics
and laser devices are not used in the simulation. At the end
of the dry firing training period, air defence weapons and
equipment are stored in secured storage sites," explained
Cpl. David Berlanga Olalla added: "The pieces were repositioned
within the barracks' area, and training was developed without
radar activation. With the aiming systems, soldiers followed
a small plane, which went between two towers. I have to admit
that VRS officers showed a cordial and compliant attitude,
with co-operation and transparency."
Troopers in the snow
The same day, the Spanish Light Cavalry Squadron (SPLCS) had
to check the practicability of Riesling Route between Gacko
and Suha, and to evaluate the Border Crossing Point (BCP)
206 with Montenegro situated in Skiljevica Poljana (25-km
northwestern of Gacko). This point has a special handicap:
during the spring, when leaving the vehicles on the road,
soldiers have to use snowshoes and Global Positioning System
(GPS) during the last 10km First Lt. José Ortega Cegarra
led the 4th platoon. "We gather information about the
main features in every BCP; for instance, accessible tracks,
location, attitude of local police, facilities, etc. In this
case, this point is abandoned, but our main objective is to
intensify the surveillance in mountainous roads to prevent
illegal gun-running and smuggling activities," explained
After long hours of walking in a rugged landscape and once
BCP 206 was reached, the troops earned a rest in the camp,
but there was another surprise for them. Sgt. 1st Class David
García Cester commented: "When we managed to arrive
back to our vehicles, close to the road, I noticed that my
soldiers were exhausted. But one of the BMRs (Armoured Personnel
Carrier) was stuck in the muddy terrain, so we had to prepare
a complicated recovery operation to recover this vehicle.
For the guys from the 4th platoon, this was another way to
overcome the weariness."
Capt. Martial Courtot, French Infantry Coy (FIC), had to accomplish
a different type of mission during this period. "My camp
is situated in the vicinity of Ovcare, and my platoons check
the practicability of the route between Granice and Mahala.
Furthermore, we have to carry out a tactical live firing exercise
with APCs in Macipolje range, and to prepare a Harvest operation
in the opstina of Nevesinje. Meetings will take place with
all responsible people as major, local police, Army, radios
and some SPFR BG representatives, in order to establish timetable
and features for this harvest. We are now distributing announcements
by handbills and posters. On the other hand, we continue developing
an ambitious plan of CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation) activities,"
In the early morning of Apr. 18, all platoons assigned to
the FIC performed a live firing exercise. First Lt. Carriaud
explained: "Every platoon will develop the activity using
VAB (APC), VBL and P-4 vehicles. Troops will train firing
with machine guns, VAB 12.70mm gun, 112mm antitank rockets,
FAMAS rifles and PGM 12.70mm sniper rifles. It is an opportunity
to check the capabilities of our unit."
First Lt. Jean-Sebastien Lhuillier, 1st platoon, commented:
"The action simulates a situation in which an allied
intelligence unit is attacked by some hard-liners from a extremist
party. The mission for every platoon is to deploy its squads
to protect the return movement of the allied unit and, at
the same time, to respond to the fire through a combination
of bounds from the armoured vehicles and dismounted actions
from the crew."
A hand of hope
First Lt. Serge Barbaize was responsible for the CIMIC actions.
"We are focusing on the Muslim families of returnees.
Recently, we conducted medical treatment with dentists in
some villages around Nevesinje. Also, in the future, there
is a project to obtain a bus for children from these hamlets.
While we gather information about the current situation among
these families, we deliver firewood, meal, warm clothes, shoes,
toys, etc.," he said.
"We often visit small villages; this afternoon, it was
the one Muslim returnee family in Lakat, North of Nevesinje.
They explained us that there were no conflicts with Bosnian-Serb
residents from the neighbourhood. Local police are present
daily. Before the war, 25 Bosniac families lived here, and
some of them envision coming back to this village. They need
special tools and items to cultivate the ground and breed
cattle. Both B-Serb and Bosniac families assess SFOR's presence
and activities as favourable. That motivates us in our daily
work to provide a safe environment and an improvement of their
lives," concluded Barbaize.
Nations of SFOR: France,
Training and Exercises