News: KFOR soldiers participate in Silver Saber training
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - Hundreds of soldiers from Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, the United States, Germany and other NATO countries responsible for the peacekeeping mission came together to train alongside the Kosovo Police and the European Union Rule of Law or EULEX.
During the three-day Silver Saber exercise, the KP, EULEX and Kosovo Forces worked together to determine how coordination and communication between the different organizations should work. The cumulative event, a large scale riot took place at Camp Vrelo, Thursday.
“Silver Saber is always one of the largest exercises for KFOR,” said 1st Lt. Jure Himelrajh, the company commander for the Slovenian Army. This is his second time going through the exercise, the first time he was a training officer. He said the exercise was different each time, and he learned a lot during the training.
Portuguese Army Capt. Jorge Marques is deployed with the Kosovo Tactical Maneuver Battalion. He helped coordinate all of the moving pieces involved in this exercise. The event takes over a month to prepare, along with numerous planning meetings to ensure its success, he said.
“This is a chance for all the troops to have joint training,” he said. “It is difficult to join all these troops to train in crowd riot control. This exercise is a chance for the new key leaders coming in to learn new techniques and procedures for CRC. The other idea behind this exercise is to show how things work, how KFOR works, and how KFOR relates with EULEX, with KP.”
On Thursday, Marques made the calls to higher command for support as the extent of the riot escalated.
“The intention is to show how it works in Kosovo,” Marques said. “The first units to be deployed in a real situation are the Kosovo forces, the Kosovo Police. They are the first layer. Only after that, if they cannot handle the situation, they can request support from EULEX, which is the second layer. KFOR only comes in as third responders, they are the third layer, and that is what we simulate here.”
KFOR, comprised of Multinational Battle Group - East, Multinational Battle Group -West, the KP and EULEX are able to use the exercise to practice movement and communication techniques.
Himelrajh, who studied at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and has worked with U.S soldiers in the past said that it is important to complete this exercise frequently so that all the moving pieces get that chance to work together.
“KFOR needs to do this frequently because of the rotation of the troops,” he said. “Every rotation should participate in this exercise at least once while they are here, some do it twice. It is very important because there are so many nations here and we need to be able to communicate with each other. We need to see how others do their things. That is the most important thing, to see each other to coordinate with each other, so we will be able to work together when we need to.”
Each company also gets to work on their own technical tactics during the exercise.
“We cover your basic crowd riot control procedures,” Himelrajh said. “From forming up as a company, to controlling those company formations to using different equipment, from the water cannons, to gas, to rubber bullets.”
Soldiers in Kosovo are prepared to face riots or roadblocks that disrupt freedom of movement, and the typical unrest that comes with political change in a region with instability. Anytime there is the potential for rioting, the responding unit’s commander must determine the facts.
“First of all, it has to be decided upon the size of the unit that will react to the disturbance, then you need to form up, you got to go out, you need to know the level of hostility of the crowd then you just go in and you do your job,” said Himelrajh.
Marques, who pointed to instances last year where violence escalated to the point that more support was needed and emphasized appropriate joint cooperation.
“Usually, in real life here in Kosovo, one force is not alone,” said Marques. “The forces must work with one another. One company will take charge, take responsibility of the other. Usually the effort is coordinated by an on scene commander. You have MNBG-E, KTM, MNBG-W, all deployed on the ground. One of the commanders takes charge and commands that scene.”
That commander will decide how reinforcements come in, which way they will approach the event. He makes the decisions, he takes the positions and he keeps the mission going, said Marques.
Both Marques and Himelrajh have taken part in the Silver Saber exercise before in a different role, with different responsibilities. They both see it as a valuable source of training. With so many moving pieces, it is easy for things to go wrong, but Marques said that things went smoothly.
“The training went very well, time was very precise, even the helicopters came on time. In real life, there is much more confusion. We try to plan things, but usually there are events which you cannot control. But this, it went very well in my opinion. We trained two days ago. We trained step by step. There was nothing new for the troops.”
Himelrajh agreed. He said that while the event was an exercise in coordination, it is always interesting to see how other armies behave, how leadership roles form and develop, as well as a chance to meet new people.