News: Building NATO partnerships: 'We see joint as a default'
POSTOJNA, Slovenia - For the almost 1,000 soldiers from 11 nations taking part in Exercise Immediate Response 14, working together is now more the rule than the exception.
No longer just a concept, multinational integration, taking on added responsibilities and sharing expectations, is about as 21st century as it gets.
For the foot soldiers bringing these lofty ideals come to life, regional exercises, like Immediate Response, help nations like host Slovenia with regional security building.
It’s also a time for soldiers to get together and share ideas on how to bring those ideals into reality. Today more than ever those discussions come from similar missions and experiences, having served in Afghanistan, Kosovo and elsewhere.
Lt. Col. JM Senior, the commanding officer of the United Kingdom’s Light Dragoons, and U.S. Army Capt. Ryan Yaun, an observer coach trainer at the U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC), are working together here with Yaun embedded with Senior’s staff to offer his American perspective on staff operations.
The both have extensive Army and combat backgrounds. Senior is an 18-year veteran in the U.K. Army and has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.
Yaun is a 14-year veteran with two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Both are cavalry officers, raised in systems while sometimes similar that have different staff processes.
The both agreed that the demands of constant deployments to Iraq and then Afghanistan had a significant impact on training, which they are now recovering from.
“We got very poor at understanding our own strengths and weaknesses,” Senior said.
He further explained, “We have had to reinvent stuff we were doing quite effectively in the '80s and '90s.”
For Yaun, a new member of JMRC’s Grizzly Team the same proved true.
“It was deployment, deployment, get up and go,” indicating there was very little time to train for scenarios other the Counter Insurgency (COIN) used in Southwest Asia.
Both officers agreed their thinking for the way ahead cannot be overwhelmed by COIN, but it must not be dismissed.
“The only way it (COIN) can be detrimental is we think the next fight will be like the last one," Senior outlined while adding. “We were looking at the next war being exactly like the last war, but now we are pulling our heads out of that.”
“If you have a proper command and control system and have empowered junior leaders, altering the mission type is a small variable,” he explained.
Yaun talked about the current training model being used by the U.S. Army. “We have transitioned to the Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE), where its offense, defense and stability operations, so we get a little bit of each.”
Like any officers, with similar interests, they discussed what they feel will help NATO evolve and especially help the newer members of the alliance like Slovenia.
Senior would like to see all staffs speak with one language.
He said, “We do not have a shared NATO decision making process at the tactical level, we are not being sympathetic to our coalition partners in that regard.”
The U.S. Army’s military decision making process (MDMP) relies heavily on staff recommendations while the U.K. model of seven questions relies more heavily on the unit commander.
He added, “We must become more aware of the product of staff work and less of the process of staff work, we will get to the end point quicker if we start at the same point.”
Both officers were unabashed in their appreciation for working together with their NATO partners.
Yaun, whose duties at JMRC call for regularly working with many of the NATO countries said, “The partnerships formed on this exercise and the learning that is taking place, working together speaks volumes, we will build up our data base of knowledge through cooperation on exercises like Immediate Response.”
Senior added, “We are in an excellent place in terms of friendships and reaching our goals, there is no lack of will at my level as a foot soldier.”
Speaking of the current professional growth for an American officer, Yaun, a 36-year-old native of Illinois, said he was in a program called Project Warrior, where he will go on to be a small group leader at the Captain’s Career Course following his time at JMRC. He said he was told from the minute he got his orders to U.S. Army Europe that many multinational training opportunities existed there and how important that was. “That is how I have been mentored in the past.”
Speaking as a British officer, Senior got right to the point, “We see joint as a default, and I heard this message once, there is only thing worse than being in a coalition and that is not being in a coalition.”