News: Marine Forces Europe conference plans Black Sea Ops
Story by Gunnery Sgt. William Price
STUTTGART, Germany - Marine Forces Europe hosted the final planning conference for Black Sea Rotational Force 12 at their headquarters building aboard United States Army Garrison Stuttgart's Panzer Kaserne, Dec. 12-14.
According to Lt. Col. Steven Robinson, MFE lead planner for BSRF-12, this conference was crucial to the success of the mission. This was the third conference for all forces involved prior to the beginning of military exercises.
"We needed to solidify the training schedule and insure logistical needs were fully understood," said Robinson, "but perhaps the most important outcome of the conference was the team building you can only get from face-to-face, personal interaction."
Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, European Command deputy director of Plans, led off discussions on the second day of the conference.
"It is a great opportunity to maintain interoperability and sustain our ability to deploy together," said Montgomery to a room of more than 50 members from the U.S. services, as well as representatives of the Armenian, Azerbaijan, Bulgarian, Georgian, Latvian, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Ukrainian militaries.
The purpose of BSRF-12 is to promote regional stability, build partnerships with host nations and enhance the military training capacity of European armed forces during their six-month rotation in Eastern Europe.
"BSRF is the cornerstone for our engagement in the Black Sea Region. It capitalizes on limited resources, existing infrastructure and forged partnerships," said Brig. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, MFE deputy commanding general. "In a period of dwindling resources, BSRF shines as a model of efficiency. With its relatively small footprint, ability to self-deploy, and limited, crisis-response capabilities, it delivers precisely what our combatant commander requires."
To work with regional partners, MFE and Chiarotti have forged a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force comprised primarily of nearly 360 Marines and sailors with 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, out of San Antonio.
"I feel like I am the luckiest officer in the Marine Corps," said Lt. Col. Rick Coates, BSRF-12 commanding officer, and 4th Recon. Bn., battalion commander. "We are operating with many great partner nations. I could not be more excited to get the ball rolling."
Currently, there are 19 nations involved in BSRF-12, with 71 training events planned throughout the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions. According to Robinson, some of the mission-essential skills the Marines and their host nations will train for are counter-improvised explosive device tactics, non-lethal weapons handling and non-commissioned officer development.
While BSRF-12 does not officially kick off until March 2012, all members of the conference share Coates' exuberance to begin training.
"This is the most important training for Bulgaria," said Bulgarian Col. Lavor Mateev, chief of Joint Facilities & Training Department, Ministry of Defense. "The Marines provide us the only opportunity to combine our navy, air force, army and special forces to work together. Every year we increase the events and the personnel. It is very beneficial for all involved!"
This will be the third annual rotation since the program's inception in 2010.
The first evolution in BSRF-12 is "Exercise Agile Spirit," a two-week combined-forces counter-insurgency and peacekeeping operations training exercise with members of the Georgian Army. Other major BSRF exercises include amphibious operations, BALTOPS 12 in Lithuania and Noble Shirley 12 in the Levant.
Coates' and the SPMAGTF are scheduled to finish up their predeployment training in January, then take some time off to spend with their families and hit the ground running in March.
"I can't say how impressed I am by the professionalism of not only the MFE and EUCOM staff, but all the representatives of the BSRF nations," added Coates. "If I bring anything to BSRF -12, it will be the Marine Corps ethos of 'One team, one fight!'"
Chiarotti echoed the SPMAGTF leader's enthusiasm.
"Most importantly for BSRF and our partner nations, this highly-successful program delivers what is best about our Corps. It showcases to our partners our most valuable asset — the Marines and sailors that make up our great Corps!"