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International Partners Build Skills During Exercise

By Tim Kilbride
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2008 – An international security cooperation exercise taking place in the former Soviet republic of Georgia is teaching lessons that will be applied in Iraq and around the world, the U.S. commander in charge of the exercise said today.

Army Brig. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne), is serving as exercise director for Exercise Immediate Response 2008. He told online journalists that the series of training programs and cross-cultural activities is designed to reinforce the participating militaries’ existing skills, teach new ones and forge professional bonds among the forces that will serve them in future partnerships.

The exercise, taking place outside the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, has united forces from several nations to participate in small-arms, combat lifesaver and situational training exercises. Countries involved include the United States, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

“To accomplish all these events, we are forced to live together, work together, train together. And this combined approach, in my view, has provided an opportunity to learn about different cultures and also to promote understanding and cooperation between our forces,” Garrett said.

Situational training involved “tough, realistic counterinsurgency” drills based on an Iraq scenario with small-unit live-fire exercises, improvised-explosive-device recognition and response, and simulated helicopter evacuation of wounded troops,” Garrett said.

Those skills will be put to use by the Georgians’ 4th Brigade when it deploys to Iraq in 2009, he said.

“What I kind of consider the golden nugget in all of this,” Garrett said, “is a fully digital command post exercise that we conducted to train the 4th Brigade commander and his staff on the procedures they will employ in Iraq.”

At the same time, the small-unit drills “encouraged independent decisions by leaders, while providing soldiers with immediate target feedback,” Garrett explained.

The exercise involves about 1,000 U.S. troops, 600 Georgian soldiers, and teams of roughly 12 people each from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Ukraine. Representatives from Armenia and Azerbaijan requested to come back next year with larger contingents, Garrett said.

The location of next year’s exercise is still to be determined. Poland and Bulgaria have played host in previous years.

Garrett indicated the focus during this year’s remaining time would switch to strengthening professional ties, with events including a sports and culture day.

(Tim Kilbride works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

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