Personnel working with Headquarters, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps recently participated in two weeks of high intensity, comprehensive training at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway during early November, 2010, in advance of their year-long preparations for their deployment to Afghanistan in early 2011.

Approximately 200 ARRC personnel received state-of-the-art training from a team of well over 140 professional trainers, staff, and support personnel during what is termed a Mission Readiness Exercise, or MRE. Next year, ARRC staff and individual augmentees from a multitude of partner nations will be augmenting the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) in Kabul.

Designed to prepare deploying units for the experiences, events, and operational tempo they can expect in theatre, the MRE placed ARRC personnel in realistic situations and scenarios, involving everyone from the most junior to the most senior-ranking officers.

Often, an MRE is the last training opportunity for a unit to work together in a training environment before they must do everything for real. As such, it is critical for the unit’s personnel to receive tough, demanding training – the idea being that it is better for the personnel to make mistakes (and learn from them) in a training environment, then in a combat zone, where mistakes can mean the difference between life and death.

The Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), was activated in late 2003 in Stavanger, Norway, as part of the Alliance transformation. Set up to conduct joint and combined experimentation and doctrine development, the JWC prepares NATO forces for military missions through joint and combined training events. Additionally, the Center assists with NATO’s developmental work on new technologies, modeling and simulation.

Maj. Gen. Tim Evans, ARRC Chief of Staff, and soon to be Chief of Staff for the IJC, was confident that the ARRC’s culminating pre-deployment exercise provided exceptional value to deploying personnel.

"Having done our own internal training, it has given us the opportunity to look wider and have people from the outside look at us and train us…with the Subject Matter Experts (from Afghanistan) and (the) organization that does NATO training (the JWC). It’s all about the outside looking in at us," said Evans.

The ARRC deployed once before to Afghanistan in 2006, at that time with duty at ISAF’s headquarters in Kabul. This time, ARRC personnel are scheduled to augment the U.S. Army’s 5th Corps, filling positions at the IJC, and at ISAF headquarters in Kabul.

French Army Col. Charles Sevin, Director of Training at the JWC, was highly complementary of ARRC, specifically regarding their preparation for the MRE at Stavanger.

"ARRC is a headquarters we usually train. We trained the ARRC prior to their last deployment to Afghanistan," said Sevin. "ARRC has a good reputation - we were expecting that (the ARRC’s) officers and NCOs would be well prepared, and that’s the case."

Another component of the unit’s training at the JWC was the addition of the training exercise’s Individual Augmentees, or IAs.

Quite literally coming from around the globe, the November exercise brought well over 130 IAs to Stavanger to participate in the training event. IAs were placed into nearly all offices, disciplines, and planning teams for the duration of the MRE, a situation that brought the ARRC and IA together to form new working relationships, which will continue to strengthen as the new team prepares to deploy in 2011.

Ultimately, it will be a key challenge and responsibility for ARRC personnel to blend with their new colleagues and form a tight, cohesive team in the headquarters at the IJC. Confident of his troops’ abilities in this regard, Maj. Gen. Evans explained.

"By the end of (the) exercise, you won’t necessarily know who the IAs are and who aren’t," said Evans.

Wishing to add as much realism and training benefit as possible, the JWC brought around 70 Subject Matter Expert Mentors from the IJC to Stavanger to assist with the ARRC’s training. Representing nearly every deployed functional area and discipline, these personnel offered ARRC and IA personnel with invaluable experience, advice, and information regarding the current state of affairs at the IJC and Afghanistan.

The most senior of this group was the IJC’s current commander, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez. In an address to the training audience, he was quick to compliment both the ARRC and IA audience preparing for deployment, as well as the JWC staff who supported the many subject matter experts he brought to the training from Kabul.

"Thank you so much for taking care of all of my folks from the IJC," said Rodriguez.

According to Col. Sevin, this most recent visit from a senior flag officer was unprecedented.

"We do ask senior officers, flag officers to come and to mentor. We were fortunate to have Lt Gen. (David M.) Rodriguez come to this exercise," said Sevin. "This just shows how much support that (senior officers) have for this training. They are the ones who know how it’s happening over there."

The JWC commander, Lt. Gen. Wolfgang Korte, was highly complimentary of both the ARRC and the training ARRC personnel received prior to their arrival at Stavanger.

"The best, and most complete, training that I have seen in preparation for this is the training provided by the ARRC. "They have put so much into this training," said Korte, "and are now clearly ready, with their IAs, to take their place and add value in the IJC."