THETFORD, United Kingdom –
Eleven members of the 116th Military Engagement Team traveled to the northeastern corner of England, to the British Army’s Stanford Training Area, for Steppe Eagle 16 During the final weeks of July 2016.
Now in its 13th year, Steppe Eagle is a multinational training exercise that this year brought together Soldiers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. This year, like all years, Steppe Eagle focused on building and honing the peacekeeping and peace support capabilities of participating nations.
Steppe Eagle aims to prepare the Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Battalion, or KAZBAT, for validation to deploy in support of global peacekeeping and peace support operations while working to strengthen the relationships between participating nations, allowing Soldiers to find commonalities among their diverse cultures and to learn from one another.
“The most important thing that goes on in these exercises is yes, it’s building capability, but it’s also about building understanding, it’s building relationships, it’s building trust and you can’t build that overnight,” explained Maj. Gen. Giles Hill, commanding general of the 1st (United Kingdom) Division.
Soldiers of the 116th MET filled a variety of roles at Steppe Eagle, assisting with the planning process, serving as observer/mentors, and providing logistical, linguistic and public affairs support.
In observer/mentor roles, 116th MET Soldiers worked with the two battalions, one primarily comprised of troops from the KAZBAT and one multinational with Soldiers from all five nations. Imbedded at the battalion and company level, 116th MET Soldiers observed the work conducted by leaders, offered their insight and ensured training happened safely and effectively.
For the first week of the exercise, Soldiers worked through situational training that focused on cordon and search, securing international borders, interacting with displaced persons and humanitarian aid and assistance organizations and responding to civil disturbances. During this time, leaders worked through the military decision making process, or MDMP, and brushed up on troop leading procedures, before heading into the second week of the event for the Field Training Exercise, or FTX.
“The KAZBAT staff collected, processed, analyzed and disseminated information from their higher headquarters, subordinate units and other sources,” explained Wille, who worked with the KAZBAT during the FTX. “Based on this information, leaders and staff then planned and executed operations to improve security in their area of operations, disrupt illicit networks and provide humanitarian relief to the local populace.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jackie Pace provided logistical support to Steppe Eagle and also served as a role-player, hurling potatoes, demanding provisions and being a general nuisance to the exercising troops. “It was the most awesome experience I’ve had in my military career,” said Pace. “It was working with the other Soldiers as role players as well as the Soldiers that were out there for the exercise.”
Soldiers of the 116th MET also supported the exercise by supporting the movement of four Humvees from Germany to England and back again for use during the training. These four Soldiers, Master Sgt. Frank Mitchell, Sgt. 1st Class David Abbey, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Wiseman and Sgt. 1st Class Allen Harris, also spent two days training KAZBAT troops on Humvee basics, to include basic preventative maintenance. First Lt. Alexander Nance used his Russian language skills during the exercise and also strengthened the relationships he made with KAZBAT Soldiers during Phase I of Steppe Eagle, held earlier this year.
“The one thing I would ask all of you to remember and to not take for granted, is the ease of which professional militaries are able to come together and operate,” Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett, commanding general of U.S. Army Central said. “It is something that is not replicated in any other profession that I know of. It’s one of those things that is very special about being a servant of our countries.”