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Training Helps Cooperative Osprey Troops for Main Exercise

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Aug. 28, 1996 – After a week of training in hot, humid conditions, the 1,100 U.S. and foregin soldiers and Marines at Cooperative Osprey '96 took a break from their Partnership for Peace exercise here Aug. 22.

Some headed to the beach, returning that evening to attend a minor league baseball game in nearby Kinston. Some visited the base exchange and local shopping malls. Others took the day to write, read and rest. For platoons from 16 partnership nations and three NATO countries, the exercise planners reserved the day for "cultural events."

For all, the day was merely a calm eye among eight hectic days of preparatory training and the three-day peacekeeping exercise they faced Aug. 24-26.

During those first eight days, six multinational companies, each composed of two NATO platoons and two Partnership for Peace platoons -- prepared for the field exercise. While training, each platoon focused on peacekeeping operations, learning how each nation can convert its tactics into one strategy should they deploy for NATO peacekeeping duties.

Partnership for Peace, introduced by NATO at a 1994 summit in Brussels, Belgium, expands political and military cooperation throughout Europe. Many former Warsaw Pact nations have joined the partnership with the hope of becoming part of NATO. Being a partner means actively planning and training forces to support NATO or U.N. missions.

To meet those requirements, partnership units must tackle training that challenges their troops to improve their defense strategies and to meet NATO standards. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John White, who welcomed the foreign troops last week, emphasized the need to build on the success of last year's exercise, Cooperative Nugget, at Fort Polk, La.

White compared the exercises to Olympic pole vaulting. "When you make a successful pole vault, you raise the bar," he said. "That is what we're doing here at Cooperative Osprey. We are making these exercises more sophisticated and more challenging than those that preceded it."

Teamwork is crucial in partnership exercises. If NATO is to conduct multinational missions, all elements must all play by the same rules. Platoons use common communications equipment and are familiar with each other's weapons and tactics.

Unlike its Fort Polk forerunner, which was purely land-based, Cooperative Osprey provided partnership platoons a different training outlook. It used a sea-based scenario for the peacekeeping "mission."

During the three-day exercise, the troops conducted amphibious and maritime operations from USS Pensacola, anchored off Onslow Beach, N.C. They secured an urban village from insurgents, performed search and rescue operations and monitored convoys and checkpoints.

To prepare for the challenge, the six training companies spent the first week rotating through six scenarios based on the final mission. Soldiers and Marines practiced each task as separate platoons. Each platoon received formal instructions on NATO standards and then trained to meet those standards. Partnership platoons also handled and fired American small arms, such as the M-16 and 9 mm pistols.

"The way the Marines trained us -- first by telling us what to do, how and why, followed by a demonstration -- really gave my soldiers a better idea of what is expected," said Albanian Maj. Shkelqim Kalemi. "We were able to understand more by performing hands-on, and it will allow us to improve the way we train soldiers when we return to Albania."

Training observers also expressed happiness with the results they'd seen. "It's been tough for many of them here, but they've really handled the heat and kept training," said Marine Corps Capt. Steve Greene, who helped handle exercise operations at Cooperative Osprey. "You didn't find many troops complaining about what they were doing here."

Greene added the partnership units weren't the only ones learning from the exercise. "We as Marines don't get many opportunities to train with these countries," he said. "We're a sea service, so we won't often link up with units training here this week. Still, our Marines are learning a lot about how they work, and that's knowledge they'll be able to carry to other missions and assignments."

Partner nations at the exercise were Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Canada and the Netherlands joined U.S. forces as NATO participants. Military observers from Denmark, Azerbaijan, Belarus and the Czech Republic also attended.

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