KOSOVO - South Carolina’s National Guard’s Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry, is learning new tactics and techniques from multinational soldiers during their yearlong deployment to Kosovo.
During a joint training exercise at Camp Slim Lines, U.S. soldiers trained with the Kosovo Tactical Maneuver Team, and a Hungarian-Portuguese force, on different crowd riot control practices so they can complete the joint mission here successfully.
One of the largest threats to the Kosovo Force is an overwhelming riot. Soldiers train to effectively oppose such demonstrations as peacefully as possible. Many NATO nations may need to respond together as a KFOR if a large riot breaks out in Kosovo. The first time these Soldiers stand side by side should not be in a real crowd riot control environment.
Capt. Ben Thornton, commander for Bravo Company, stressed the importance of having soldiers and leaders work together. He said it is important for leaders to understand the capabilities and limitations of the troops they fight alongside, and for the troops to understand the procedures among the different armies. For example, some units cannot use non-lethal weapons in a formation. This is important information for leaders who must organize, and for soldiers who must execute those plans.
The joint training exercise provided the opportunity for cooperation on CRC fundamental skills. Together, they were able to sharpen their knowledge of CRC tasks, and see how individuals and groups reacted under difference scenarios.
First Lt. Jay Torgesen, 2nd Platoon leader for Bravo Company said, “Our overall readiness is being improved by learning these tactics. Being an American infantry soldier, we never really train on crowd riot control.”
In the United States, local police forces typically handle most riot situations, but in many other countries, this job often falls to the military, making these multinational counterparts more experienced on CRC procedures.
Lt. Jan Oswald, a military policeman for the German army, and the commander of the water squad tank and water patrol, agreed that it is important for all the nations involved in the KFOR mission to be able to work together. He said that everyone has different standards, and different methods of training. The Americans do it one way, while the Hungarians and Portuguese do it another way. For the purpose of this mission, everyone needs to learn to work as one team. Together, they learn best practices and with training, they become unified. They learn to work together, and at the foundation of everything, they are all military.
Torgesen said that that everyone learned a lot during the training. It was a great opportunity to experience new things, and face fears head-on. His team of Hungarians and Americans started with non-lethal weapons. Hungarians do not use shotguns in a formation, so it was an opportunity for them to see why and how they can be used.
After they completed the non-lethal weapons station, the Soldiers moved on to "fire-phobia.” Trainers threw Molotov cocktails at the feet of advancing soldiers, who had to walk, march or run through the fire, remaining as calm as possible.
“We have to learn to not be afraid of it here, because if it happens at an actual event, we need to be able to handle ourselves,” said Torgesen.
Finally the soldiers worked with the German water cannons, which spray pressurized water into crowds to help control a scene. They learned how to work with the cannon crew, as well as the effects of the cannon’s spray on crowds.
According to the rule of law in Kosovo, if a CRC situation breaks out, the Kosovo Police respond first and then the European Rule of Law (EULEX). If more forces rare needed the KTM and U.S. respond as part of KFOR. It is important for these teams to know how to work together, how they react, and what is customary and what is not.
Torgesen said that his troops have been doing an excellent job with this training, and handling every mission they have been given since the beginning of this deployment.
“Any task that has been given to us, whether from the brigade, the battalion or the company commander, we have been able to get that task done,” said Torgesen. “We have covered all tasks from patrols, to going out and meeting with the locals, to CRC, guarding the gates, and even our weapons qualifications.
Everything they have been given, the soldiers have taken and gone with and done an excellent job. I am most proud of them.”