Calif. guardsmen headed to Afghanistan train with France’s Rapid Reaction Corps
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 8, 2017
California National Guardsmen with the 40th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Sunburst Division,” are assisting France’s Rapid Reaction Corps to train in crisis-response techniques in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
About 30 guardsmen, acting as a subordinate unit of a NATO Joint Task Force, are working with the French unit during the two-week Citadel Bonus mission, which began Dec. 4. During this time the U.S. soldiers have been helping with planning and guidance as the French soldiers train to secure and stabilize a place called “Arnland.”
“NATO is in the fictitious country of Arnland, utilizing a Joint Task Force construct, in order to expel opposition forces from part of the country, restore order and then conduct stability operations,” said Col. Michael Leeney, chief of staff of the 40th Infantry Division.
The troubled country faces several threats, including an enemy occupation and chemical attacks.
“My position is chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN). I work hand in hand with (French) CBRN representatives,” Master Sgt. Fernando Ravega said. “We are working together to decide courses of action we would take to either neutralize chemicals or cordon off the area to ensure the security of allied forces from a chemical attack.”
Their mission in Arnland, which is constantly changing, aims to simulate the real-world unpredictability of an unstable nation. The soldiers are working around the clock, gathering information for their French counterparts, as the mission evolves, Ravega said.
This is one of several European exercises in which the National Guardsman are participating before their deployment to Afghanistan in April as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission. The Californians will focus on training, assisting and advising their Afghan counterparts.
Being attached to a French-led unit in the Citadel Bonus mission is preparing the soldiers to work more closely with NATO allies and gives them a taste of what to expect on their coming deployment, Ravega said.
Once Citadel Bonus is over, the soldiers will continue working with the French during the follow-on Citadel Gilbert mission in eastern France, where they will serve as the division headquarters for the exercise.