110 logistics soldiers from 1 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps’ 12 Squadron have been putting their infantry skills to the test during the multi-national NATO exercise, Agile Spirit hosted by the Georgian Army at their Vaziani training base close to the country’s capital Tbilisi.
The country of Georgia sits on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, to the south lies Armenia and Iran and to the north the disputed border with Russia, a result of the Kremlin backed ‘peace enforcement’ operation that carved off the two self-proclaimed republics of South Osetia and Abkhazia. Little wonder then that this region, much like those further north in eastern Europe, are needing of a sense of assurance towards any would be aggressive neighbour.
For most units back in the UK at the moment training is affected by Op Interflex (the training programme for Ukrainian armed forces personnel) so this has been the ideal opportunity to utilise the training areas to do navigation, battlefield causality drills and other elements of field training Major Jon Daulton, 1 Regiment RLC
Georgia’s capital Tbilisi derives its name from the old Georgian word Tpili meaning warm and so Tbilisi actually means, place of warmth; through the course of Ex Agile Spirit it certainly lived up to its name. With temperatures nudging 40 degrees this was a test in itself, throw in the gruelling topography of the Vaziani and Norio training areas and this was indeed going to be a challenging three weeks of training for the soldiers of 12 Squadron.
The first week was confined solely to acclimatisation – a process through which every soldier is put. The troops are required to complete exercise routines over progressively longer distances with a gradual increase in weight loading until they become both physically and mentally attuned to their new demanding environment.
General Andrew Poppas, Commander of United States Army Forces Command in his Kermit Roosevelt address said, “training wins the fight,” and referring to the recent Warfighter, the large-scale peer to peer all out simulated war gaming exercise involving 3(UK) Division, he made clear the essential need for “US and British Armies to be technically and culturally interoperable.” Agile Spirit was just such an exercise in that underpinning General Poppas’ statement with the Brits working alongside and integrating with their American counterparts from the US Georgia State National Guard and the US 12th Cavalry Regiment.
As crucial as the US and UK military interoperability is, the main aim of Agile Spirit was one of reassurance for the Georgian Ministry of Defence and key regional stake holders by partnering with the Georgian Defence Force to develop their tactical capability in deploying a multi-national battle group. In essence it is all about enhancing the capability of the host nation where they will be able to provide a 1* headquarters for a multi-national battlegroup and execute the required command and control elements associated with such.
From a British Army perspective, Agile Spirit was another demonstration and test under the Op Mobilise banner; this is the operation announced last year by Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders of which one of its pillars demands British Army units be able to deploy overseas and project capability across Europe and beyond at relatively short notice.
I’m terrified of heights so the thought of a ride in a helicopter was quite daunting to start with. When I got on, I absolutely loved it. We flew over and saw the whole of Tbilisi. At first it was like a roller coaster; the pilot took it up then dipped it down and it made my belly jump. I ended up going on it a further three times it was really great fun PRIVATE TARIQ JUSSAB, 1 REGIMENT RLC
So, what was in it for the exercising unit, 12 Squadron 1Regiment RLC who were joined by a platoon from 3rd Battalion, Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers. As the Squadron’s Officer Commanding, Major Jon Daulton explained. “For most units back in the UK at the moment training is affected by Op Interflex (the training programme for Ukrainian armed forces personnel) so this has been the ideal opportunity to utilise the training areas to do navigation, battlefield causality drills and other elements of field training.” Speaking of the Blackhawk helicopters of the US 12th Cavalry Regiment, he went on to say, “The big benefit the troops have had, which we can’t ordinarily do in the UK, is the aviation support. For us to be able to experience heli-insertion and recovery in US UH60s (Blackhawk helicopters) is fantastic for the troops and something they are going to get to do very often, so we are making the most of activity like that.”
For many it was their first time in a helicopter and in the case of Private Tariq Jussab, who celebrated his 21st birthday whilst on Agile Spirit; not only was it his first time in a helicopter, but also the flight over from RAF Brize Norton was his first ever experience of flying. “I’m terrified of heights so the thought of a ride in a helicopter was quite daunting to start with. When I got on, I absolutely loved it. We flew over and saw the whole of Tbilisi. At first it was like a roller coaster; the pilot took it up then dipped it down and it made my belly jump. I ended up going on it a further three times it was really great fun.
Following the week-long acclimatisation period, a mandated activity as laid down by policy to minimise the risk of heat related injury, 12 Squadron moved on to conduct platoon level attacks using blank ammunition. For this they were air lifted by the said Blackhawk helicopters from their base at the Vaziani barracks up onto the high plateau of Norio training area that looks down across the valley of the Kura River and the capital Tbilisi.
From the helicopter landing site, they patrolled through the dense, and prickly, woodland some 5km down off of the plateau before making their punishing uphill assault onto a heavily defended objective controlled by the US troops of the Georgia State National Guard.
This military exercise and training is very significant, and it stresses why and on what level our relationships are maintained with our partners. I would like to extend my gratitude to our friends Juansher Burchuladze, Georgian Defence Minister
With the blank firing phase complete, attentions turned to what would be the training climax for Agile Spirit – the company level live firing assaults. If anything epitomised interoperability on this exercise, then this was it and on a grand scale. The British provided two platoons to the US Georgia State National Guard led company with those troops from 12 Squadron being able to call in live 81mm mortar fire and sniper support from their US colleagues to help seize their objectives. There was also a platoon of Bulgarians involved in the company attack which just further underlined the cohering sense of integration.
Ex Agile Spirit 23 closed with a remarkable fire power demonstration that saw Georgian armour and artillery centre stage, Barrage after barrage of 155mm shells sent billowing clouds of smoke and dust skywards over the impact area as the hearty crump, crump of the guns echoed around the hills of the Vaziani’s range No. 9. There followed the closing ceremonial parade in front of scores of VIPs headed by the Georgian Defence Minister, Juansher Burchuladze. In his address to the parade he stated, “This military exercise and training is very significant, and it stresses why and on what level our relationships are maintained with our partners. I would like to extend my gratitude to our friends.”