Saturday, September 20, 2008

Canadians in the Shoothouse

Shoothouse PIC: 9th Platoon in the Attack!

HOHENFELS, Germany, Sept. 12, 2008—Australian soldiers from 9 Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment prepare to enter and clear a building of simulated hostile enemies during a training mission at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany Friday.

Canada integrates neighbors for CS08

Sgt. Bryan W. Lewis

HOHENFELS, Germany, Sept. 12, 2008 – The Canadian army began integrating U.S. Soldiers into their units, starting with 4th Platoon, H Company, 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment, Sept. 12 as part of ABCA’s process to strengthen the interoperability between the nations involved.

The ABCA Armies’ Program is a 60-year-old program involving armies from America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, focused on the challenges associated with their current operating environment. The American and Canadian armies have taken a new step to meeting these challenges by intermixing Soldiers together during their time at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.

Pte. Gerry Ramier, an infantry Soldier from 4th Platoon, H Company, 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment, said, “Our mission statement…is to gain knowledge from all of the other countries that are here…to see how their stuff runs, how they like to get everything done, and vice versa, have them learn from us and to be able to react to each other.”

“Our mission is to be integrated with them (the Canadian army) and assist them in tactical questioning on the spot and gathering intelligence information,” said Sgt. Devin J. Hinds, a human intelligence collector with the 209th Military Intelligence Company, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

Developing new relations is a major goal of the ABCA Program. Everything from relations between Soldiers, all the way up to the relationships between armies of different countries are affected by the training that will go on while at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.

For some Soldiers on both sides, Cooperative Spirit 2008 will be the first time they will get to interact with Soldiers from other countries. Cooperative Spirit 2008 is a chance to improve interoperability of different armies.

4th Platoon, H Company, 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment integrated three Soldiers from the 209th Military Intelligence Company, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division starting with their Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) training.

Hinds said, “It’s very rewarding to find out about not only our cultural differences by getting to know them but also it helps knowing how they differ tactically.”

Ramier added after conducting MOUT training, “Being able to watch you guys (American Soldiers) do your entry drills and then you guys watching us do our entry drills, and then integrating both of them together was awesome.”

The time the Soldiers of these two armies spend together training is strengthening relations between countries and opens Soldiers up to new cultural experiences. They are able to observe each other, ask questions, and notice similarities and differences.

Spc. Brooke N. Weikle, a human intelligence collector with the 209th Military Intelligence Company, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, said, ”They’re not a whole lot different from us at all. They pretty much use the same idioms we do, and they sound like we do.”

Hinds said, “They’re very inquisitive. We worked together trying to figure out each others’ rank structure.”

Other Soldiers, like Master Cpl. Tim Brown from 4th Platoon, H Company, 2nd Royal Canadian Army, are able to compare the opportunities of working with American Soldiers during deployments and during Cooperative Spirit 2008. After Brown explained his enjoyment from working with American Soldiers during a deployment, he was asked how he thinks the same deployment would have gone if he had received the training he is going through at Cooperative Spirit 2008 prior to working with American Soldiers.

“It would make things effective quicker, because now I’m not sort of blindsided. I wouldn’t be hesitant. I know how they work and how they operate. This should go smooth,” said Brown.

With Cooperative Spirit 2008 in only its beginning stages, the internal bonds of brotherhood in units are quickly stretching out in leaps and bounds to those in units of a different country.

“I’ve already talked to a couple people about where they live and how far they are from Fort Lewis, Washington,” said Hinds. “I definitely see some friendships developing.”

Ramier said, “I’m just hoping to meet some good people. Hopefully someday we’ll be able to run into each other on the battlefield and have confidence fighting alongside them.”

We want to hear from you.

What do you want to see in the Blog? Is there something on Interoperability that you would like to comment on? Please, use this blog entry to add your comments on your ABCA experiences. We would be glad to post your experiences on the PLT STX, CO STX, or the FTX. Just click on Comments.

Germany, home or Afghanistan ?

By: Capt Marie-Noelle Blanchet, Canadian Public Affairs Officer

We've been here a couple weeks already. As the time goes by, I often have to remind myself that since the 11th of September, I've been living in Germany. We, the Canadians, along with the Aussies, the Kiwis, the Brits and the Americans are all based out of the Forward Operation Base (FOB) Albertshof, in Hohenfels. But in my mind, beside the fact that I see 5 different types of uniforms, strange last names, weird accents, a huge amount of uniforms with varying types of camouflage patterns, and HUMVEE vehicles -- this feels just like home.

It should not be surprising that Canada has military bases of its own, with endless training areas with tank tracks, trees, hills, valleys, dirt and sand. But, just as I was comparing my homeland to this U.S. military base here in Germany, and as I was escorting a reporter down a tank trail into a training area... I was hit with a flash of Deja Vu that I can only describe the feeling in one word: surreal! I AM SUDDENLY BACK IN AFGHANISTAN when I was there in 2004.

Because the focus of Cooperation Spirit 2008 is based on an Afghanistan environment, the Joint Multinational Readiness Center has remodeled the area into a replica of the country. As we drive along the first village we cross is Asadabad, a small hub located South West of Kaboul in the Kunar Province. An Afghan Flag is floating on a post, villagers (role-players), are hanging around, living their every-day lives. Afghan women are walking down the street wearing blue burkas that cover their faces, little shops are opens, houses -- dirt-wall-type -- are packed tight one beside the other surrounded by high walls for their own security. The mayor, along with his senior local police officer are sitting in the middle watching over their village.

As I look around, I have to keep reminding myself that this is all "FAKE". Oh my God ! Looking to my fellow American, MAJ Jaunita Chang, who has been to Afghanistan before... we both agreed that the reality of the village is mind-boggling. It is like being there -- for real.

As we traveled around the JMRC training area we passed through the villages of Nari, Kanday, Jalalabad and other training sites. Near Kanday, as we walked up a hill, we could clearly see some hilly ground. As we approached, I was astonished that there is even a big cave complex... like the ones we encountered in Afghanistan.

All I can say is...WOW!
Finally, as we return to our FOB in Albertshof, I'm telling myself how the whole experience of Cooperative Spirit 2008 is much more than a Canadian coming to Germany to train with the ABCA nations... it's almost a world tour with a bit of Canada thrown in.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Have You Seen the ABCA Coalition Operations Handbook (COH)?

The ABCA Armies' Program delivers many products for use by Armies to enhance interoperability.

Our flagship publication is the ABCA Coalition Operations Handbook (COH).

The COH provides Coalition Commanders and Staff with useful information on important topics relevant to the planning and conduct of coalition operations. The COH is not doctrine, nor does it contain tactics, techniques, or procedures.

The COH provides guidance to commanders and staff operating in, or preparing to operate in, a coalition environment. It is a handy reference of fundamental issues and interfaces that must be addressed to achieve successful coalition operations. It assists understanding and development of solutions to employ forces effectively and integrate coalition capabilities.

COH Edition 4 was released in April 2008 and is available in English, French and Spanish.
Contact your ABCA National Point of Contact or the ABCA Program Office on +1 703-588-6555. Also, check out the ABCA Website at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Check out our new video bar at the bottom of the page.
LTC Cain, Coalition Press Information Center.

Canadians training in Germany

2 RCR Battle-Group soldiers gets theirs boots on the ground in Germany
By: Capt Marie-Noelle Blanchet, Public affairs officer.

Three hundred and fifty Canadian soldiers, under the command of Lcol Geoff Parker, are ready to face the challenges of the Ex COOPERATIVE SPIRIT 08 (CS08), an ABCA Armies training held in Hohenfels, home of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC).

The main body of the 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment (2RCR) is composed of infantry soldiers out of the 2RCR unit. Attached to the battle-group are soldiers coming from various trade like, artillery, engineers, medical technicians, military police, intelligence, signals etc. Severals Canadian soldiers are also coming from the Reserve and are based in New-Bruswick province, located East of Canada.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who says Kiwis can't fly?

They certainly flew a long way - 24 hours - to get to FOB Albertshof, part of the JMRC at Hohenfels, Germany, and the location for the lead-up to Exercise Co-Operative Spirit 2008.

It’s a fast-paced existence for the men and women of Bravo Coy, 2/1 RNZIR, who deployed to Germany just three weeks after returning to New Zealand from EX TAIAHA TOMBUK, a Five Power Defence Arrangement exercise that saw them training in the heat of the Malaysian jungle.

But despite that frantic pace, there’s no rest for this team – they’ve come all this way for the opportunity to participate in the first ‘boots on the ground’ ABCA exercise in 20 odd years.

The ability to train in the sophisticated facility available at the JMRC has seen the Kiwis out in ‘the Box’ on a daily basis over the past nine days, pausing only to take in the Bledisloe Cup rugby match at the Community Activity Centre on Saturday 13 September. One British LTCOL was quoted as saying that there is life and death – but for the Kiwis and Aussies, rugby is more important.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse here, though this isn’t something the Kiwis aren’t used to – 2/1 RNZIR hails from Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, home of the incredible Southern Alps and some of the best skiing in the Southern Hemisphere.

The STX begins on 17 September and the Kiwis are looking forward to getting underway.

--Nicole Munro-Johnson, New Zealand Armed Forces


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Five nations begin training in Germany

Col. David Funk, commander of the 3rd Styker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., stands at the front of the ABCA Armies formation during the opening ceremony Friday of Cooperative Spirit 2008 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

By Staff Sgt. Tony White and Spc. Opal Hood

HOHENFELS, Germany — American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand ground forces held an opening ceremony for Cooperative Spirit 2008 Friday at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center here.

The ceremony signaled the start to the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand (ABCA) Armies Program’s month-long training, which will primarily focus on the interoperability of equipment and the exchanging of tactics and procedures between the five-nation coalition.

“Interoperability, in my mind, is the ability of all of us to look each other in the eye to make orders and directives and to understand one another and to go out and complete missions together,” said U.S. Army Col. David Funk, commander 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “Our Army continues to fight … and we don’t fight it alone.”
Although goals for all the nations are the same, there are still trials that must be overcome.

“The biggest challenge to interoperability is that while ABCA nations share similar values, each has a distinct national identity and ways of doing business,” said Australian Col. Shane Amor, the Chief of Staff for the ABCA program. “Each of their armies brings different capabilities to the pot. Understanding those differences, communicating and sharing information, and tactful integration of the five armies is a challenge but is essential to achieve cohesion and mission success.”

Roughly 1,800 troops are participating in a variety of training situations including cordon and searches, downed aircraft recovery, provincial reconstruction team operations and live-fire scenarios. The training begins with squad and platoon level training, and gradually builds up to multinational integrated brigade-level operations and missions.

Not only are the mostly infantry Soldiers honing their infantry skills, but the troops will also participate in a variety of civil affairs projects, including building up local, notional economies with the aid of coalition forces and establishing reclamation projects such as schools and hospitals. The missions will be conducted so as to help troops understand the full spectrum of operations they may encounter.

Cooperative Spirit 2008 is particularly designed to test the interoperability of command and control information systems, working together in a counterinsurgency-based environment. To accomplish this, the units will perform a variety of tasks such as detainee handling and improvised explosive device defeat techniques, tactics and procedures.

“ABCA is five like-minded nations who have been working together for a long time … working together to work out interoperability issues,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Parker, commander of 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment.

The U.S. Army has several units taking part in the month-long training exercise, including the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, both from Fort Lewis, Wash. The infantry battalion is an organic element to the Stryker Brigade and they both have deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, most recently returning in September 2007.

Soldiers from the Utah Army National Guard also are participating in the multinational training. The unit provided security for the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. In addition, the Soldiers supplied humanitarian relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The 1st Welsh Guard will participate as representatives from the United Kingdom. During the last five years the unit has deployed to Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Kosovo.
The Canadian Army presence will be shown by the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment from Gregg Barracks, Gagetown, Canada. Since 2004 the unit participated in operational activities in Afghanistan and Haiti.

Also taking part in the training will be the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, from Townsville, Australia. Within the last decade the unit has seen operational service in East Timor, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Iraq and Afghanistan.

A company of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, from Burnam, New Zealand, will also partake in the coalition training. Since 2000 the unit has served in Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor, Afghanistan, Solomon Islands and Tonga.

Created in 1947, the ABCA Armies’ Program initially consisted of the American, British and Canadian Armies. In order to take advantage of the close-working relationships these three nations shared during World War II, a pact was signed to signify their willingness to continue the well-built and defined union.

As the century progressed, the three nations would recognize the Australian and New Zealand Armies as permanent members in 1963 and 2006, respectively. Today, the ABCA members form an organization echoing similar national values and defense goals, which plans to continue to evolve to meet the demands of their people and the ever-changing world.

For additional information about Cooperative Spirit 2008 and the ABCA Armies Program, go to

Taking a break from training

By: Spc. Opal Hood

Soldiers from the American, Britain, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand armies at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, are training diligently as part of Cooperative Spirit 2008 to test their interoperability, but some took two hours for an interaction of a different kind.

The rival Australian Wallabies and New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby game postponed training for the Australian “Aussie” and New Zealand “Kiwi” participants as well as other rugby fans from America, Britain and Canada to watch the game at the Community Activity Center here Saturday.

“There are things important like life and death,” said Lt. Col. Keith Kiddie, United Kingdom Standing Representative in Canada. “This is more important to them.”
The Aussies inquired about getting the game for their troops to watch in spite of the training here, said Alex Rosado, an Information Technologies Specialist of the U.S. Army’s 69th Signal Battalion. As a morale booster, he said his unit went out of their way to make the troops feel at home.

“The match brought everyone together,” said Rosado. “The more we do together; the better we become as one team to fight.”
Even though the teams participating in the rugby match were Australians and New Zealanders, Soldiers from the other nations present for the training found it interesting to see what the excitement was about and just watch some rugby.

“We are working closely with the Aussies and Kiwis for the training, so we wanted to be more attached to them--a part of them,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Hamlyn, Military Intelligence Company of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “They told us about the game, and they were taking a break from the training to watch the game. We felt that we needed to be here and do something that is important to them.”

“This game,” said British Lance Cpl. Raymond Hill, Reconnaissance 1st Battalion Welsh Guard, “is the American equivalent to the Super bowl.”

The troops may have had their fun, but they never forgot the real reason they are here, according to Australian Pvt. Ryan Pownell, 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.

“My objective (at Cooperative Spirit) is to learn how the other countries operate and be able to work with them overseas,” said Pownell.

“I think having more situations like this in Cooperative Spirit, the nations would be bonding together a lot better,” said Lt. Tane North, 2nd/1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

While the Soldiers are training hard to better the cohesion of their respective militaries’ interoperability, this down time kept up their morale and helped share a cultural sport with other nations.

Showing the Cooperative Spirit

My name is LTC Rob Cain, and I will be your blog host. I am a member of the ABCA Coalition Press Information Center (CPIC) located here at Albertshoff, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center here in Germany. This site will not only bring you press releases, stories and photographs of the what is going on here, but public affairs representatives of our coalition partners from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain will bring their observations and insights to this blog site.

If you are a member of the media the best way to get more information about Cooperative Spirit ’08 and the ABCA program is to contact:

LTC Eric Bloom, CPIC Director at +49 (0) 9641.83.7776.

The CPIC is located in Bldg. 1270 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC).

Members of the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (MPAD) out of Fort Lewis, Washington, will join in, for most of the stories and photos are examples of their work in the field. In addition, we will try to get Soldiers (from all countries) training here at the JMRC to come on line and explain their thoughts and impressions of participating in a unique test of interoperability. We will attempt to give you the academic and high level concepts of what interoperability is, but we will also try to relate to you what it means on the ground – Soldier to Soldier.

The purpose of this blog is informational, and if successful will provide insights into why interoperability between these nations participating is important and necessary.

The following is a list of our initial contributors. As Cooperative Spirit ’08 progresses others will join our ranks in trying to bring you not just information about the ABCA efforts, but what we see and feel on the ground. Here are some of our blog contributors. If I don’t get everyone, they will eventually be identified as the weeks go on.

Click on the flags to go to these nations web sites.

1st Battalion Welsh Guards -- Major Martyn Miles

Canadian Armed Forces - Capitaine Marie-Noelle Blanchet

Australian Armed Forces – Captain Dan O’Mara

New Zealand Armed Forces – Nicole Munro-Johnson

United States Army – Major Juanita Chang,
First Sergeant Betty Thompson and ...

The 5th MPAD out of Fort Lewis, Washington, USA

I hope that you find these entries valuable, and thanks for joining us on the ABCA adventure.