ILISKIY TRAINING CENTER, KAZAKHSTAN
ILISKIY TRAINING CENTER, Kazakhstan - The young Kazakhstani soldiers line up to form a human barricade with metal shields firmly planted in the ground between them and the rioters. As they hold their position, a Tajikistani squad leader tries, in a calm even voice, to get someone from the rioting group to speak on behalf of the others and explain what they are seeking.
On the other side of the shields, the rioters become more rowdy as they pick up plastic bottles and sticks to make more noise. Nearby, a U.S. soldier leans in to whisper to an interpreter other things to yell to provoke the crowd.
As the rioters begin to press into the solid human wall, the Kazakhstani and Tajik soldiers use the skills they were taught to control the crowd without violent force, and the squad leader is able to successfully reach out to the crowd to find a peaceful solution.
One of the mentors who were watching yells out, “That’s how you do it!” The training ends with a group huddle and pats on the back.
More than 1,000 personnel from nine different countries participated in the 11th annual Steppe Eagle exercise at the Iliskiy Training Center in Kazakhstan from Aug. 5-23.
“As a part of the Arizona State Partnership Program, through the years it has ramped up with the collective level of training they have received,” Command Sgt. Maj. Stephan Frennier, the senior enlisted leader for Third Army/U.S. Central Command. “Theater security co-op events are imperative to build partner capacity, and we have been able to effectively communicate with one another in order to make this happen.”
The consistent training each year proves to be a relationship-builder. Col. Christopher Delarosa, the chief of exercises for Third Army/ARCENT, who is also the exercise director this year, explains the importance of maintaining interoperability and the potential for conducting future real-world operations.
“It is a strategic mission for all of our nations here but more importantly as soldiers it’s about developing relationships,” Delarosa said. “When you get that nation on your left or right flank supporting each other, the relationship has already been established and we have a more cohesive organization through events and engagements.”
Each year, the exercises consist of battalion and brigade command operations, as well as training Kazakhstani soldiers in military tactics designed to comply with United Nations standards. The focus ranges from camp security operations to riot control.
“I’ve been involved in quite a few of these exercises over the years, and I have observed the Kazakhs making strides from a tactical level to a soldier level, all the way up to brigade level,” said Capt. Christopher Kent, one of the mentors from the Arizona Army National Guard. “I have watched them take on the world stage in a remarkable way, and accept transition from Soviet Union to former Soviet Union.”
First Sgt. Keith Marceau, first sergeant of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and the International Company, as well as a mentor for the Tajikistani military during Steppe Eagle 2013, echoes this after observing the exercise during the first part of the week.
“The Kazakhs quickly implement the lessons they receive and are on their toes with learning and applying the tasks smoothly,” Marceau said. “They chose English for their communications, and it is obvious they have taken seriously everything they have been taught.”
When a nation decides to receive mentorship so they may serve on Peacekeeping missions, under NATO, that nation must choose to either use English or French as their language for communications with other multinationals. This ensures all nations are effectively able to communicate with one another with minimum delay.
Now that communications have been established within the Kazakhstani military, the interoperability comes with great ease between the Kazakhstani military leaders and leaders of other nations.
“It comes down to being able support one another as a joint team,” Frennier said. “The more we work together, the less likely someone will want to start a conflict; it will deter that behavior and form stronger partnerships and allies.”
One thing the Kazakhstani military is currently working on is sustaining a more stable noncommissioned officer core. It has been customary for the Kazakhstani military to have only officers in leadership positions.
“I’m always looking for indicators of discipline and one of the things I’ve seen is their soldiers are never out of uniform on a mission, you see their leaders in charge, and it’s great to see them give their noncommissioned officer core more authority,” Frennier said.
Throughout the exercise, it was remarked by mentors how advanced the Kazakhstanis have become with military logistics and leadership. But as Delarosa points out, while the Kazakhstanis are the ones learning and hoping to be able to carry out Peacekeeping missions, the exercise has always been a two-way road with sharing different ideas and experiences with other participating nations.
“It’s a win-win and it’s a great opportunity for our soldiers and leaders to come here and work with the Kazakhstani army and other nations; they don’t just learn from us - we learn from them too,” Frennier said. “I commend all our mentors for the hard work put in with our partners to help get them ready for future Peacekeeping missions.”
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This work, Steppe Eagle 2013 helps prepare allies for peacekeeping missions, by SGT Lauren Twigg, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.