STAVANGER, Norway – NATO Exercise TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 concluded at San Isidro Military Base in Menorca, Spain, and the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger, Norway, on October 6, 2019.
TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 was a nine-day exercise that tested NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain’s (NRDC–ESP) ability to execute a land-heavy Small Joint Operation involving air, maritime and special operations forces. It was the culminating event of a series of exercises conducted by the Spanish Army this year to prepare NRDC-ESP to assume the position of NATO Joint Task Force Headquarters in 2020.
The two-level (operational and tactical) exercise was directed by German Navy Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack, Commander JWC.
“TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 provided an excellent opportunity to train NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain to operate and succeed as Joint Task Force Headquarters,” said Kaack.
“As the JWC team, our purpose was to challenge them to think ‘jointly’ and help them achieve their Training Objectives. Exercises like this provide the foundation on which we build our interoperability with joint and combined forces, enhance their readiness and make NATO stronger. As the Exercise Director, I believe TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 is a significant milestone of future NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain missions.”
Approximately, 1,000 civilian and military staff from 24 countries worked together in the exercise as participants, evaluators and observers.
Jan C. Kaack, Commander Joint Warfare Centre
“The purpose of TRIDENT JACKAL was to challenge NRDC Spain as they prepare for their new role within the framework of the NATO Force Structure,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James “Ogre” Brassell, JWC’s Officer of Primary Responsibility for the exercise.
“To meet this challenge, NRDC Spain has implemented joint processes using NATO doctrine while commanding a joint force including land, sea, air and special operations components.”
Brassell added: “The scenario further challenged the headquarters, as the path to success does not lie in a kinetic force-on-force solution but rather points at a heavier emphasis on soft power. Therefore, strategic communications, civil-military interactions and cooperation with the non-governmental organizations are some of the Joint Task Force Commander’s primary concerns.”
Brassell noted that during the planning phase of TRIDENT JACKAL 2019, the exercise shifted into a new and compressed training timeline, which eventually kicked off in December 2018 –– simply put, an 18-months’ worth of planning squeezed into a 9-month period. “It was a challenge but a rewarding journey,” said Brassell.
The Training Objectives of TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 included, but are not limited to, the following: effective Command and Control of NATO Forces in theatre; timely and effective decision-making through coordinated staff processes; impact assessment of military operations on civil environment; Strategic Communications; theatre logistics; force protection and joint fires and targeting.
“The Exercise Control (EXCON) has controlled the pace to ensure that NRDC Spain was stressed at the appropriate level by providing key injects that triggered a reaction within the headquarters, stimulating action that demonstrated competence in a discipline, and ultimately resulting in the successful completion of all of the primary Training Objectives of the exercise,” explained Brassell.
"During the exercise, NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain trained their decision making and staff processes in the early phases of a Small Joint Operation, where establishing the credibility of a NATO led Task Force and laying down the conditions for longer term success were the primary challenges, rather than engaging Opposing Forces in kinetic actions."
An excellent training opportunity for NRDC-ESP
Spanish Army Lieutenant General Francisco Gan, Commander of NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain, underlined that the exercise provided a variety of invaluable training opportunities for his headquarters, especially focusing on the overall crisis response decision-making process.
“It is critical for Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain to train as a Joint Task Force Headquarters, especially to ‘think’ from a wider perspective and to get the staff synchronize and harmonize different processes vertically with our higher headquarters and our subordinates in the most efficient manner. Strategic Communications for the overall area of operations was, for example, a challenge. What we learned will be paramount to orientate our Training Objectives for the next year and we keep improving as we will be in stand-by and ready to deploy should it be required by NATO,” said Gan.
He added: “The exercise was definitely a success. It allowed us to work in a more integrated way and to learn mainly in those aspects concerning command and control of land, maritime, air and special operations forces; synchronizing the internal processes of the headquarters and the activities of the forces, as well as leading the fight in the contested information space. Especially support from the JWC’s scenario teams, guidance by the advisory and evaluation teams as well as simulation of the exercise media outlets were some of my personal highlights during the exercise.”
Exercise TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 was based upon a fictitious, non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operation scenario, dubbed as SKOLKAN 2, created and developed by the JWC.
British Navy Commander Nicholas Meredith, JWC’s Chief Main Events List/Main Incidents List (MEL/MIL) for the exercise, noted that much of the exercise was focused on establishing credibility of the Joint Task Force in the field environment as opposed to demonstrating NATO’s combat capability.
Meredith said that over the course of 9 days, around 600 injects were made, “all of which contributed to a testing environment”.
“During the exercise, NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain trained their decision making and staff processes in the early phases of a Small Joint Operation, where establishing the credibility of a NATO led Task Force and laying down the conditions for longer term success were the primary challenges, rather than engaging Opposing Forces in kinetic actions,” said Meredith.
Netherlands Army Colonel Peter Teeuw, who served as the Chief Opposing Forces (OPFOR) during the exercise, explained how the “simulated adversary” exercised its capabilities.
“During this exercise, the Joint Warfare Centre provided NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain a realistic, believable and nuanced adversary through its OPFOR and scenario branches as well as media. This allowed training for our colleagues in all warfare domains. Although predominantly military, the information, political and social aspects of a crisis were highlighted,” said Teeuw.
Teeuw said that the realism of OPFOR reinforced the exercise scenario.
“OPFOR’s activities in all these domains were as realistic as possible, and therefore, enabled the best learning a headquarters could wish for. I am sure NATO Rapid Deployable Corps–Spain will not forget Stavanger easily,” said Teeuw.
Meanwhile, on October 3, Danish Army Major General Peter H. Boysen, Commander of the Royal Danish Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC), visited the JWC to observe the special operations portion of TRIDENT JACKAL 2019.
He participated in a variety of exercise events and had an office call with the U.S. Navy Rear Admiral James A. Kirk, JWC’s Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff.
Currently led by Denmark and supported by Belgium and the Netherlands, the C-SOCC’s mission is to plan and coordinate, subsequently to command and control tactical level special operations integrated into the operational level of command within the full spectrum of joint operations.
“Exercise TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 has allowed the Composite Special Operations Component Command to achieve Initial Operational Capability, thereby paving the way for Full Operational Capability in 2020,” said Boysen.
"TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 has allowed the Composite Special Operations Component Command to achieve Initial Operational Capability, thereby paving the way for Full Operational Capability in 2020."
Almost 37,000 man-hours of EXCON
On October 6, 2019, Rear Admiral James A. Kirk closed out Exercise TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 in Stavanger with his final remarks to the EXCON staff highlighting that they had “expended almost 37,000-man hours of work, allowing the Training Audience to achieve their 14 Training Objectives and more than 130 Supporting Tasks” during the execution phase.
“You should all be proud of yourselves,” Kirk said, adding: “we have achieved everything asked of us, and I might add, with some style. Take this investment and build upon it. I thank you all for your participation and professionalism. Central to all we do is NATO’s readiness and through TRIDENT JACKAL 2019 you all played a role in enhancing it.”
Photos from Exercise TRIDENT JACKAL 2019, Norway and Spain