VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, Republic of Georgia --
In its fourth iteration, Agile Spirit has grown from a battalion-level training engagement to include, for the first time, an integrated, brigade-level command-post exercise during its two-week evolution.
“The function of the command-post exercise is to promote interoperability between the U.S. and Georgian forces, focusing on the themes of counterinsurgency operations, humanitarian assistance, and stability operations,” said Scott R. Raiger, CPX combined-exercise control group lead from U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa.
By introducing the brigade-level engagement, the exercise integrates command and staff-level participation from the two militaries, with primary units being the 6th Marine Regiment and the 4th Georgian Mechanized Brigade.
“Tactical training is very important to the individual riflemen, however, [the CPX] is the only level that you get mid-to-senior-level officer and senior-enlisted engagement in command and controlling the forces,” said Raiger.
The CPX is conducted in conjunction with the tactical-level training engagements, both unifying more than 250 Marines and their 550 Georgian Armed Forces partners to provide command-level coordination between the two nations’ militaries, which hasn’t been included in previous iterations.
“You can have the best riflemen in your unit, but if you have commands that don’t know how to employ them wisely, you’re going to lose,” Raiger added.
The Marines and Georgians begin the notional situation in a phase with deployed coalition forces having finished major-combat operations and will transition to a stability phase. While preparing to leave the country, the simulation is supplemented with an earthquake, leaving the command-post staff a significant humanitarian assistance and disaster response problem to deal with, together.
“It’s really shoulder-to-shoulder planning and partnership and it’s been a teach-and-learn experience,” said Master Sgt. Joseph W. Edwards, the operations chief for the CPX, 6th Marine Regiment.
As the command post integrates each nation’s process and procedure, mainly between the Marine Corps Planning Process and the Georgian’s version of the U.S. Army Military Decision-Making Process, the integrated staff works together to resolve their notional situation before the Final Exercise, which they will command live troops participating in the tactical-level training of exercise Agile Spirit comprised of Marines from Black Sea Rotational Force 14 and their Georgian counterparts.
“It’s really good to look out and see around the table a Marine, Georgian, Marine, Georgian,” said the Vidalia, Georgia native.
“They are really willing to commit! There are times when we could have gone home but we were so engaged in the scenarios until late in the night; sometimes they’d go home, work on stuff, and come back with products the next morning,” Edwards added.
With the addition of the CPX and a multilateral program hosting military observers from Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and France, exercise Agile Spirit continues to build a robust evolution for the U.S. and Georgian Armed Forces, indicative of their commitments to regional stability and collective security.
“As we grow our capabilities, the demands and requests [to support] are increasing at the same time, so now the brigade is involved in the training and we are trying to synchronize the efforts with the [Marine Regiment],” said Georgian Col. Zaza Leladzi, the commander of the 4th Mechanized Brigade, GAF.
“I would like to underline that we are participating, coordinating our actions with the U.S. Marines, so each step we take in this, we are working with our Marine counterparts,” he added.
Georgia supports the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force with full battalions working alongside U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, making them one of the largest troop-contributing nations for the contingency effort.
“The U.S. is a strategic partner and you can clearly feel it in this [exercise],” said Leladzi.
“The [most positive] experience is that we’re sharing [with] our American counterparts our experiences and we’re learning; we’re doing our best to gain as much knowledge and information out of this training. This is the learning for further learning.”
Agile Spirit 14 will run through June 21. In addition to the CPX, the exercise supports small-unit interaction with training engagements emphasizing basic-infantry skills, search-and-control packages, live-fire ranges and a broad spectrum of counterinsurgency and peacekeeping operations.
“This is the interoperability at our level now to engage with their leaders [because] these are the ones that we might work together in the future in other parts of the world,” said Raiger.
Annually-scheduled exercises like Agile Spirit demonstrates the dedication to learn from each nation’s militaries through the years.
“We show the commitment that we want to come over here and train with our counterparts; if we just wanted to be myopic, we’d we could hang out in 29 Palms, Calif., all year; this shows we want to come to you, not to train you but train with you, and learn something from you as well.”