Operation Paladin 03

2Lt. Agustín López Marín
First published May 16, 2003

From April 28 to May 1, Multinational Brigade Southeast (MNB-SE) carried out an operational rehearsal named Paladin in the area of responsibility of the Spanish French Battle Group (SPFR BG). Some attached units participated in the exercise: one Italian Company assigned to the German Italian Battle Group (GEIT BG), one Canadian Reconnaissance platoon from Zgon and several US and Canadian helicopters (see next article).

Mostar - The staff of the SPFR BG led and co-ordinated the operation. Spanish Capt. Pedro Hidalgo Moya, G-3 deputy Plans Officer explained: "The SPFR BG plus reinforcements conduct the exercise Paladin 03, developing the process to test Contingency Plan Pegasus. MNB-SE activated the Tactical Reserve of the Brigade, one Italian Company from the GEIT BG, which will reinforce the troops by performing normal framework operations in Kula valley and Trebinje area.
We will also take profit from reinforcement from MNB-Northwest (one Canadian platoon) to increase SFOR presence in the Southern-east part of the Area of Responsibility (AoR). We focus our efforts against the smuggling operations at the Montenegrin border. By means of patrols and night flights, we avoid the illegal traffic of goods and weapons."
Italian deployment
After the first airlift, platoon and key leaders arrived in Kula Valley, Italian troops organised joint patrols with French soldiers to prepare the relief. Capt. Sandro Iervolino commands the 2nd Coy 'Beirut', 66 Airmobile Regiment. "I was made aware by French Capt. Martial Courtot of the situation in this area. We recognise and are familiar with it, maintaining day and night patrols in the opstinas (municipalities) of Nevesinje, Gacko and Berkovici. One Canadian platoon and one helicopter Bell 412 help us to reconnoitre and check some Border Crossing Points (BCP) with Montenegro," he stated.
Italian 1Lt Paolo Signani added: "We transfer by helicopter one platoon plus a signal team to operate in Trebinje area, for a limited period of approximately 12 hours. Their mission will be to establish checkpoints and register civilian vehicles. They look for illegal weapons and control the approved movements of the Federation Army in the area."
Canadian wandering lords
The Canadian platoon belonged to the 'C Troop', Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), from Zgon. Lt. Clayton Gardner led the unit. He commented: "My unit is composed of five 'Coyote' (Reconnaissance Armoured Vehicle) and one 'Nyala' engineer vehicle. We co-operate with MNB-SE units in their AoR. The first day, we deployed and performed tasks under Italian command. Later, we moved to work with the French unit. Our mission included operations in the area of Gackco and Trebinje, performing the special surveillance dispositions on BCPs with Montenegro, obtaining as much as possible information about the traffic and detecting suspicious smuggling movements across the border."
French hunting
Cap. Courtot led the French Infantry Coy. "After establishing the relief with the Italian Company in Gacko, we patrolled and familiarised ourselves in the areas of Trebinje, Bileca and Ljubinje. We worked with one Moroccan and one Canadian platoon, which helped us to reconnoitre some BCPs. Along with these activities, I also directed my unit in a convoy escorting VIP. This was performed with the support of two helicopters (one 'Blackhawk' and one 'Apache'). In these manoeuvres, the main action will consist in an operation in the hamlet of Pitoma Gradina (20km northern of Bileca)," said Courtot.
Lt. Bruno Laporte-Many is the chief of the 3rd platoon. He explained: "Intelligence unit found some evidences, which indicate that smuggling activities or weapons storage could occur in this bordering hamlet. My unit received the order to check this with the support of two helicopters and a Military Police unit, to confiscate the possible goods or arrest possible delinquents. In the early morning of Apr. 30, we deployed around this small village."
"At 12:30, Courtot briefed Italian Brig. Gen. Gian Marco Chiarini, MNB-SE commander, and Spanish Col. José Monasterio Rentería, chief of the SPFR BG. He explained the main details and features of the action. Later, my unit entered the hamlet with the air surveillance of two US helicopters. After inspection, no illegal weapon was found, but the information we gathered from the local population will help us to manage our objectives."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France, Italy, Spain, US, Canada

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Photos: Sgt. Toni McDowell

WO1 Goodwin (l.) comments with Sgt. Daley (c.) about the main features of the mission.

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Lt. Laporte-Many deploys his platoon into the hamlet.

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Capt. Courtot (c.) explains the action to the members of the Military Police.

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The Canadian unit performs a reconnaissance in the village of Autovac.

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