By Staff Sgt. Les Newport, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Sept. 27, 2006 – While a multinational assembly met at the United Nations in mid-September to evaluate progress on the Kosovo situation, a multi-state task force of National Guard soldiers prepared to assume responsibilities of U.S. peacekeeping efforts in the region.
Kosovo Force 8 will depart Camp Atterbury in October after several months of training, much of which included a series of command-post exercises designed to test command-and-control elements of the force.
The exercise consists of three cycles that become progressively more involved, Army Maj. David Webber, plans and operations officer for 3rd Brigade, 85th Division, said.
Webber’s primary responsibility is managing the scenarios and exercises that take place in the 33,000 acres of training area at Camp Atterbury, as well as at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Area, where KFOR 8 has been training.
“The first phase involved just the command decision makers, and those decisions affect what commanders will face in phases two and three,” Webber said. “As the exercises unfold, more of the task force is brought in to participate.”
In order to maintain a realistic training environment that reflects what KFOR 8 will see in Kosovo, many of the training areas have undergone remodeling. Simulated Iraqi villages have been converted to resemble villages that KFOR will see in the Balkans. Changes include new road signs, maps, even political posters and graffiti scrawled on buildings.
In keeping with U.S. 1st Army’s “theater-immersion training philosophy, 3rd Brigade also has adjusted training to reflect the differences between the two areas of operation. Interpreters from the Balkans have been brought in to assist in cultural awareness training and negotiation training, and U.S. soldiers of the 87th Division are role-playing liaison officers of coalition forces.
“In Kosovo, (KFOR 8) will be working with the armed forces of several other countries: Greek, Italian Carabinieri (national military policing force) and the Polish/Ukrainian contingency just to name a few,” Webber said.
Webber stressed that managing communication flow and meeting reporting requirements are the keys to maintaining a successful training mission, as well as a successful yearlong peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
“Decisions that commanders make are actually affecting soldiers in the field (at Camp Atterbury),” Webber said. “The more they exercise those skills here, the more effective they will be on deployment.”
Camp Atterbury’s multi-million-dollar Joint Simulation Training Exercise Center complex serves as the command post during the exercise. The facility is fitted with the latest in an array of communication systems for commanders.
The command and staff elements of KFOR 8 filled the Virtual Simulations Facility, a sprawling 20,000-square-foot structure, establishing a tactical operations center, as well as supporting elements to manage the exercise.
Among the supporting elements is Task Force Patriot, a battalion of New England National Guard soldiers charged with force security missions. TF Patriot Commander Lt. Col. Erick Furey emphasized that the exercise was key for his staff and battalion.
“The training during this CPX has been very realistic,” Furey said. “I have trained without contractors role playing the media and local government officials, and that realism has made the training excellent.”
Furey also said the CPX has been valuable for his battalion staff because they have worked on procedures for coordinating staff functions and procedures and for synthesizing and analyzing information.
Task Force Patriot will leave with the balance of KFOR 8 in October for further training exercises at the Combat Maneuver Training Center, in Hohenfels, Germany, before deploying to Kosovo.
(Army Staff Sgt. Les Newport is a staff reporter for the Atterbury Crier.)