5 nations partner for peacekeeping exercise in England
STANFORD TRAINING AREA, England — A riot-control squad formed a wall of shields as it steadily marched down a small market road under a barrage of potatoes thrown by angry villagers during the culminating event of Exercise Steppe Eagle on Thursday.
The 13th annual training event brought together 798 soldiers from the United Kingdom, United States, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to train in peacekeeping and peace-support operations beginning July 16.
Steppe Eagle, conducted under NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, is held at different locations each year. NATO rated the Kazakh Peacekeeping Battalion as tactically compatible with the alliance’s forces, as the unit’s preparation and training met all international standards.
“The language of war is the same in each country, in each army, and I think that the role of making peace is the same also,” said Capt. Ayan Nurkassov, the Kazakh unit’s commander. “Every mission starts and ends with multinational forces. We don’t do the peacekeeping mission by just our army.”
The Arizona National Guard has participated in the State Partnership Program with Kazakhstan for more than 20 years; it has joined in the Steppe Eagle exercise for the past 13 years. The State Partnership Program was launched in 1993 between the United States and the newly independent former Soviet republics.
“The early years were planning operations and now they’re getting more into tactical peacekeeping efforts,” said Lt. Col. Joe Murdock, commander of the 850th Military Police Battalion, Arizona Army National Guard. “In years past, it has been focused on mentoring the Kazakh force. This year it’s really focused on interoperability.”
That means the U.S. and U.K. forces aim to fully integrate peacekeeping missions with soldiers from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
“Basic things like base security, patrol actions, how they move on the ground — things like that. It has shown, when we’ve seen the lads on the ground, how they’ve took some of our points on and adjusted their tactics,” said British army Sgt. David Beard, a platoon commander with Charlie Company, 1 Rifles.
Being able to work together requires the various forces to overcome differences in operating procedures, communications and language.
“Those are real world challenges that we’re fixing here for the eventuality of working together as partners in the future,” Murdock said. “We’re even adapting our (standard operating procedures) and the way we do things.”
The forces from five nations came together not only on the battlefield but also on the playing field. During a sports day, they competed in soccer, volleyball, an IronMan-type competition, a relay race and a game of tug of war.
“When you go on a mission, you not only have to know that mission through and through, you have to know what the people around you are going to do,” said Sgt. Casey McNutt of the Arizona National Guard’s 856 Military Police Company. “Them coming together on small scale like a sports event shows that they can take that camaraderie and take on any mission because they’re a family. And that’s what can get any country through any kind of mission.”
Kazakhstan’s Defense Ministry formed the Peacekeeping Battalion in 2000 to meet obligations of maintaining international peace and security.
The unit saw extensive service from 2003 to 2008 in Iraq, where it located and disposed of ordnance and assisted at water production plants and medical facilities.
Twenty Kazakh soldiers were selected and trained for observation of U.N. peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Western Sahara, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia.
Kazakhstan was elected in June to the U.N. Security Council, the first Central Asian country to join that body. It begins its two-year term on the council, together with Sweden, Ethiopia and Bolivia, in January of next year.