Airborne Brigades Plan for Joint Operations

Following on from previous joint exercises (see previous issues of LZDZ) British and French airborne forces have now practised how they would plan and operate together on a joint mission.

Ex Citadel Guibert, which took place in Reims, France, is a key stepping stone in the relationship between 16 Air Assault Brigade and 11e Brigade Parachutiste (11e BP), which is at the forefront of closer military co-operation between Britain and France. Both brigades provide their armies’ rapid reaction forces, held at high readiness to deploy on operations anywhere in the world. They have been tasked to develop an Intermediate Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (i-CJEF) for contingency operations, ranging from disaster relief to war fighting, which is due to be ready to deploy from spring 2013.

Citadel Guibert saw staff from the two brigade’s headquarters working side-by-side to practise C2 of an operation to stabilise a region troubled by international disputes, terrorism and humanitarian problems.

Col Jackson, Dep Cdr of 16 Brigade, said: “This exercise has been a massive waypoint in developing the i-CJEF. It is the first time we have done combined planning with 11e BP and practically demonstrated our joint capability for the missions that could be asked of us. As brigades we are similar in structure and role, but take different approaches to get to the same place. It has been a challenge for us to understand each others’ methods, but we are realising where the common points are and developing personal relationships to smooth the process.”

Col Vanden Neste, Dep Cdr of 11e BP, said: “We are the leaders in the relationship between our two countries’ militaries and, after a year of hard work, we will soon be ready to go on operations together. Citadel Guibert has given us the chance to work through a theoretical joint mission, understand the similarities and differences between us and prove that we would be able to operate together. As brigades we share a common ethos, built around strong and robust soldiers trained to get on to the battlefield by air and, through Afghanistan and NATO, are used to multinational operations.”

The i-CJEF is based on a lead nation approach with one nation providing the majority of the troops and command structure, depending on the operational and political situation. The final step in validating the i-CJEF will be Exercises Joint Warrior and Fortel, taking place in Scotland and France respectively in early 2013, which will test the whole force through planning and field training.

In order to further cement the links between the two brigades an exchange of officers has taken place, with Lt Col Laurent Cuny coming to 16 Bde and Maj Anthony ‘Seb’ Coe serving in 11e BP’s HQ in Toulouse. Exercise Citadel Guibert gave the two exchange officers an opportunity to work together.

Lt Col Cuny, has served for 23 years in the French Army, mainly with the airborne infantry of 1er Regiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes. He said: “As a French officer I can explain how we work and, by immersing myself in the British way of operating, I can explain to my colleagues how the British work. Seb is doing the same and our work should help to avoid any misunderstandings and improve our operational effectiveness. This is the first time I have worked with an international ally and it is a great opportunity to develop my career.”

Maj Coe who was born in Chichester, moved to France at the age of nine and returned to Britain in 2002 to join the Army. He said: “I grew up near Toulouse so working at 11e BP has been a home from home to me, but it has still been a big challenge to understand a different army and its culture. I have taken a job from a French officer and have to do that role to the expected standard, as well as acting as a liaison point with 16 Air Assault Brigade. It is interesting to be working on the i-CJEF and helping to bring the two brigades, which have a very similar purpose and ethos, into a closer partnership.”

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