March 9, 2018 —
Ethnic tensions are at a boiling point on the cold and narrow streets of a European town. Angry rioters hurl stones at American and Armenian Soldiers arrayed in riot gear. The Soldiers, from Task Force Thunderbolt, form a shield wall beside a Light Military Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) mounted with a crowd dispersing Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).
The Soldiers wield their batons and shields as the melee builds in intensity. The Soldiers push back the mob, rescue officials trapped in a government building and restore order to the town.
The stones and batons were made of foam and the rioters were OPFOR (Opposing Force) Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, who were participating in a realistic Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRE), called Operation Dynamic Manor.
Operation Dynamic Manor concluded after nearly three weeks of training from Feb. 19 to March 7 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at Hohenfels, Germany. The purpose of Dynamic Manor was to simulate the worst possible day Soldiers of Task Force Thunderbolt could encounter during their upcoming nine-month peace and stability mission in Kosovo.
“The scenario is fairly robust,” said Mustang Team Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Burrow, Brigade Senior Enlisted Trainer at the JMRC. “But the chances of this happening in Kosovo are low. We’re trying to replicate what the worst case could be.”
Observer Coach Trainer (OC/T) teams from the JMRC run U.S. and multinational units through realistic exercise scenarios that play out at Hohenfels in “the Box,” a 40,000-acre training facility made up of hilly and forested terrain interspersed with realistic town sets populated by role players.
In Operation Dynamic Manor, about 150 role players, both civilians and OPFOR, played the role of government officials, news reporters and rioters. Realistic social media and news feeds reported on events on the ground and enflamed tensions.
Task Force Thunderbolt came together for the first time on Feb. 19 when Soldiers from the active-duty Army, the Army National Guard, the Army Reserve and an Armenian infantry company arrived at Hohenfels. Led by the California National Guard’s 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the task force will deploy to Kosovo this month for KFOR 24 and assume responsibility of Multinational Battle Group-East (MNGB-E). MNBG-E’s mission is to contribute to a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement in Kosovo.
“The training provided by the JMRC was phenomenal,” Task Force Thunderbolt Commander Col. Nick Ducich said. “Through the diverse and sometimes simultaneous exercise scenarios, our newly comprised team had to adapt quickly. I was impressed by the continued effort, agility and aggressive spirit of the subordinate units and the brigade staff. The training at JMRC is world-class and has prepared us well for the unique mission in Kosovo. We’re eager to officially start KFOR 24.”
Units that comprise Task Force Thunderbolt are:
* 79th IBCT, Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), San Diego, California.
* 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, “Destroyers,” Fort Carson, Colorado.
* 977th MP Company, Fort Riley, Kansas.
* 28th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
* 702nd Ordnance Company EOD, Grafenwoehr, Germany.
* 19th Public Affairs Detachment, Fort Riley, Kansas.
* D Company (Military Intelligence), 578th Brigade Engineer Battalion, San Diego, California.
* 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Massachusetts National Guard.
* Detachment 2, C Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, Virginia National Guard.
* An Armenian infantry platoon.
The Soldiers of Task Force Thunderbolt trained at Hohenfels in the snow and rain with temperatures dropping well below freezing. Their training included crowd and riot control, situational awareness patrols, liaison monitoring team engagements, an active shooter incident, mass casualty incidents, press conferences and other scenarios and activities the troops could encounter in Kosovo. During the exercise, the Soldiers of the task force got to know each other, learned each other’s capabilities and trained in a realistic environment with challenging and rapidly changing conditions.
“I am confident that Task Force Thunderbolt is prepared to take the reins from Task Force Bowie,” said Brig. Gen. Lawrence R. Powell, Kosovo Force (KFOR) Chief of Staff. “They have completed a rigorous, pre-mobilization training cycle that culminated in a Joint Multinational Readiness Center rotation. The cadre at the JMRC have met the training objectives of the commander and have built exceptionally realistic training venues.”
KFOR, a multinational NATO peacekeeping force, was formed to bring safety and stability to Kosovo in 1999 after the Kosovo War. With Operation Dynamic Manor successfully completed, Task Force Thunderbolt is now cleared to depart Hohenfels and begin its mission in Kosovo.
“The importance of this mission within the region is paramount at this especially pivotal time,” Powell said. “Task Force Thunderbolt is a very capably led, multinational force that will increase interoperability of the Alliance while ensuring a continued safe and secure environment for all citizens of Kosovo.”
Task Force Thunderbolt will relieve Task Force Bowie, led by the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the Arkansas National Guard.