Thousands of forces at White Sands for international joint exercises
By STEVE RAMIREZ | Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News | Published: May 20, 2014
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — There is a lot of activity this week at White Sands Missile Range.
About 6,100 military personnel, including forces from the four U.S. services and National Guard, and from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and United Kingdom are at WSMR, as well as Fort Bliss and Holloman Air Force Base for Bold Quest and Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.2, joint military training exercises. The massive joint exercises began Monday and continue through Thursday.
"It's a 'Pay as you Play' operation," said John Miller, Bold Quest operational manager. "...This is the first time we've been to White Sands. We're a partner with NIE. It's a first at White Sands and a first for Network Integration Evaluation.
"These are significant training operations. In this era of declining resources, we're trying to get the best band for the buck."
Bold Quest is a joint and multinational enterprise in which participating nations, services and programs pool their resources in a recurring cycle of "collaborative capability development, demonstration and analysis," according to a fact sheet from the U.S. Joint Staff.
Miller said the joint training exercise will provide U.S. military and its allies with valuable information.
"We're learning as much from what we're able to do as what we're not able to do," Miller said.
Military leaders from the United Kingdom and Italy agreed the training is valuable.
"It's really important to take our equipment and put it into the mainstream," said Darren Leverton, squadron leader for United Kingdom forces.
Lt. Col. Antonio Labbate, of the Italian forces, added, "We want to be here because we want to test with the other coalition systems."
Miller said WSMR has already proven to be an excellent venue for the training to be conducted. In previous years Bold Quest exercises have been staged at eight locations, including: Fort Benning, Ga.; Camp Lejeune/Cherry Point, N.C.; Salisbury Plain, England; Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and Fort Irvin, Calif.; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Camp Rena, Norway; and Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Complex, Ind.
"This is a first for us," said Miller, of WSMR. "The only other environment that's come close is the National Training Center (at Fort Irwin). This environment provides anything any national service would want."
Alfredo Ramirez, Bold Quest test officer at WSMR, said the combined natural resources at WSMR, Holloman and Fort Bliss will only add value to the results gained from the training exercises. The region well replicates the conditions allied forces have, and could face in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's been a great experience to enable these two exercises," Ramirez said. "The diverse terrain here is very (battle) theater representative."