Currently, the field and situational exercise of an ongoing military exercise SbS 2013 is being conducted at Adazi training area with the participation of more than 900 personnel. The allied troops have travelled to Latvia from the United States, Lithuania, Estonia and Great Britain for the event bringing with them military equipment. The tent camp has been successfully set up.
The first portion of the FTX exercise with the objective to improve tactical skills at a company level focusing on coordination with the air forces has concluded. The French Air Force with Mirage F-C1R fighter aircraft currently patrolling in the Baltic air space were involved in Saber Strike 2013 event at Adazi training area. The U.S. Air Forces continued providing fire support to ground forces in coordination with JTACs.
The main objective of the exercise is to improve interoperability and multi-lateral cooperation. I believe that the partnership between the United States and the Baltic States is outstanding,’ pointed out the U.S. exercise co-director Major General David Elmo. ‘This training helps us learn about each other more and improves our cooperative effort so as to achieve the common objectives. We are strong when we are united as a team.
NAF Commander Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube emphasized that he is proud of the performance by the Latvian guardsmen both during the Saber Strike 13 and in the EU Battlegroup qualifications training thus proving the high professionalism and defense capabilities of the national armed forces.
- Being the FTX exercise director how do you evaluate the first part of a two-week event?
- This exercise consists of two portions. The first week was primarily the preparation phase – in four different training locations the participants trained the skills by performing four different combat tasks and preparing for the next phase. I think that the first week has been successful. The command and control elements of the allied battalion and OPFOR battalion were duly deployed. Consequently, it was easy to follow the tactical operations of one’s own troops and improving the communication procedures and cooperation. The second portion of the exercise involves an intense 24 hour combat operation.
- The DISE system used in this exercise helps the commanders follow the movement of their soldiers and observe the tactical situation. How do you rate the integration of this technology in thetraining process?
At first it may seem unusual when you shoot and then, suddenly, your weapon switches off and you realize that you are out of the game. This is exactly what happens in a real combat situation when a soldier gets wounded or killed. In this case we can follow the situation on a computer screen.
After each tactical scenario, every commander up to the platoon level can assess and examine the performance of his unit, see the mistakes and the correct actions. Then a specific tactical task can be rehearsed. To learn and rehearse was, actually, the primary goal of the first portion of the training. DISE system shows the commanders how effectively they have executed their tasks.
- How do you assess the cooperation between the U.S. and French Air Force during the training process?
- The contemporary warfare shows that close air support or a rapid and precise destruction of the hostile targets has a vital significance. Of course, it cannot be learned in a single day –the air controllers usually learn by themselves how to coordinate the air support. Last week’s training, however, involved the company commanders to cooperate with air controllers.
Many commanders cooperated with air controllers for the first time. It was a good opportunity for them to understand on hand the effectiveness of a close air support. They had to prioritize and resolve quickly on the elimination of specific targets. I believe that it is an invaluable experience for our commanding staff – the real life experience of the vital contribution of the close air support. The flat two-dimensional warfare characterized by the ground force tactics has been transformed into a three-dimensional operation. Even when the close air support is a simulated training event the significance of its contribution is undeniable by creating a real-life combat situation. What’s more, when the pilot reports on the situation on the ground and the enemy movement, the participants are more aware of the complexity of the contemporary warfare.
- Currently we are discussing the modern technologies. And yet don’t you think that it is an infantryman who is at the core of the combat operations? What do you think about the participating units in the exercise?
Unequivocally, unless there are boots on the ground, the terrain remains beyond our scope. Therefore, the cooperation with the ground forces is of paramount importance. I was pleased to find out that the presence of the assigned interpreters’ support team for multi-national troops was not required. We have built an effective partnership and friendship. A good example is the Lithuanian infantry company with the incorporated U.S. troops and the Estonian defense company augmented by the British troops. The U.S. Army cadets are incorporated into the Latvian infantry company who are acting as the OPFOR.
I assume that our soldiers are professionally capable of serving in a multi-national environment also considering the fact that the battalion commander of the allied forces is a soldier from Latvia, the chief of staff is Estonian with a staff personnel comprising both Lithuanian and U.S. soldiers.
- The guardsmen from the Latvian National Guard (Zemessardze) are getting ready for duty in the EU Battlegroup in the second half of the year? How is this unit coping with the assigned tasks?
They are doing as well as the Infantry Brigade soldiers of the Land Forces. After a six-month intensive training and preparation process it has reached unit cohesion and high professional level. Also, it is the first challenge for the brigade infantrymen to participate at such high-intensity warfighting skills of conventional warfare. Therefore, a lot of training lanes are new not only for guardsmen but also regular soldiers from Lithuanian and Estonian infantry brigades. For example, the majority of the participants admitted that the ambush tactical lane was the new challenge to them. This exercise is a unique opportunity to all participants and I would not like to draw a line by separating the guardsmen and regular soldiers.
- What are you expecting from the second portion of the exercise?
Many things depend on the CPX leadership assigned to coordinate the operation of the multi-national battalion. Every company trains with different capabilities, experience, equipment and armament. The outcome depends largely on the commanders’ skills and abilities to apply available resources. I think that this will be an exciting training portion. We will do without breaks in order to create tension and fatigue in every soldier. All the lanes are designed to reflect real combat conditions in confronting the opposing forces.