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British and French armies learn from each other

Learning the best way to work together with allies is a central pillar of NATO exercises.

Among those friendly nations which just completed training with UK troops on Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia is France.

It was the second time this year that members of Queen’s Royal Hussars and Legionnaires from across the Channel have linked up.

We have learned from each other’s processes and ways of thinking... Lieutenant Benoit
13th Demi Brigade, French Foreign Legion

Lieutenant Benoit, 13th Demi Brigade French Foreign Legion, explained: “We first met in Germany from January to February on Exercise Tallinn Dawn. It gave us the opportunity to work together before our deployment in Estonia.

“We have learned from each other’s processes and ways of thinking because there are a few differences between the French and the British.”

Captain Jonathon Nice, Adjutant in the Queen’s Royal Hussars (QRH), who is SO3 ISTAR (Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) on Exercise Spring Storm added: “Exercise Tallinn Dawn, for the British, is our keystone pre-deployment training exercise.

“We were very lucky that the Legion Company and the headquarters were able to join us for that exercise, and, as Benoit said, it was an opportunity to take our process and their process and work out how we can best use each other to create the most lethal, agile force possible.”

From that initial encounter, there were a number of learning points taken into Exercise Spring Storm.

Jonathon said: “The main thing we took away as a headquarters was communication. There are many things we are used to doing when working with other British troops, from Queen’s Royal Hussars but also across 20 Brigade and 3rd (UK) Division.

“The challenge of working with a multinational battle group is that we can’t rely on the shortcuts and the colloquialisms that we would normally, so being really clear in our language when we are asking them to do something and vice versa, making sure our communication is absolutely crystal clear, was the biggest take-away for us.”

Lt Benoit added: “The planning cycle for the British is a really condensed rhythm and they really follow the process. It is really interesting to see it because the French soldiers are a bit different.

“Also, the way they are making their operations and tasking their sub-units is again a bit different, so we take the best parts of the British process and try to improve it with some stages from France. At the end, we have a better product because it takes into account both ways of thinking.

“For the French, part of our HQ links with PJHQ (Permanent Joint Headquarters), in order to understand what will be asked of the French Company and to be sure PJHQ has all the information to operate in the most efficient way.

“We have different capabilities to our Allies, so these can be used in a complementary way with the QRH and others.”

And it’s not just essential development of combined tactical skills that both sides benefitted from.

Jonathon said: “The opportunity to meet and get to know, on a personal level, the French officers, and soldiers we are working with has been invaluable. As ever, working with people from different cultures expands our horizons and helps us be much better at what we do.

“From little things like how the French administer themselves in the field compared to how the British teach that to those personal relationships that ensure we all work together in the best way are all vital and we all walk away with friends as well as colleagues which really is a good thing.”

The UK rehearsed the reinforcement of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP) Estonia to Brigade-level strength alongside its French allies.

The British Army’s 7 Light Mechanised Brigade Combat Team HQ and Light Dragoons Battlegroup joined the Queen’s Royal Hussars for Exercise Spring Storm.

Participating countries were UK, Estonia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and USA.

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