The operational level Crisis Response Planning phase for Exercise TRIDENT JAGUAR 14 (TRJR 14) has been ongoing since 3 February and will continue until 21 February 2014.

The Training Audiences, NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - Spain (NRDC-ESP), Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (SFN) and NATO Special Operation Forces Headquarters (NSHQ) have established their Joint Operational Planning Groups (JOPGs) in Valencia (Spain), Lisbon (Portuguese) and Chievres (Belgium), respectively.

The Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) currently has deployed Training Teams at all locations in support of that training.

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As part of the planning effort, NRDC-ESP and SFN deployed their Operational Liaison Reconnaissance Teams (OLRTs) to JWC’s training facility in Jåttå, Stavanger, from 7 to 15 February. Here, JWC provided an OLRT Training Team and an Exercise Control (EXCON) organization, covering all Training Audiences.

The Execution Phase of Exercise TRJR 14 is scheduled for this May, and will be directed by German Army Major General Erhard Buehler, Commander Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), as was the Crisis Response Planning phase.

TRJR 14 features many “firsts” including: the first operational level exercise sponsored by NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (ACT), together with being the first-ever exercise to train multiple Joint Task Force (JTF) headquarters derived from the new deployable NATO Force Structure (NFS).

It also marks a milestone for JWC in being the first exercise that will train two JTF headquarters simultaneously, with land and maritime expeditionary aspects and two OLRTs, under a single Exercise Control (EXCON) organization, scenario and MEL/MIL script.

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The Crisis Response Planning for TRJR 14

More than 200 operational planners, subject matter experts and operational level trainers participated in the event.

Also deployed to Stavanger were liaison teams from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, (the Nations involved in the exercise scenario), in order to support the White Cell, replicating the Baltic Nations and role-playing the key personnel in both civilian and military structures of those Nations.

In addition, German Army General (Ret.) Karl-Heinz Lather supported the training event by role-playing the SACEUR, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and provided the overall strategic military advice for North Atlantic Council (NAC) as part of the exercise scenario.

JWC’s lead planner for the OLRT event, Canadian Army Lieutenant Colonel Rick Williams said that the event was designed to be as realistic and challenging as possible, adding: “two OLRT’s effectively working simultaneously posed some unique challenges for JWC support personnel. These types of occasions always serve as good learning opportunities for both the Training Audience and JWC exercise support staff.”

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The OLRT is a multinational team of specialists and experts dispatched to a possible theatre of operations through NATO under a complex mandate in order to gain first-hand situational awareness of that environment and inform the NATO Operations Planning Process about the crisis and the situation on the ground. The OLRT can be deployed before or after a NAC decision to deploy forces and it supports the Joint Operational Planning Group (JOPG) of the Task Force HQ directly.

The team also monitors the actual and potential crisis areas at all levels (strategic, operational and tactical), assesses the mainstream and social media scene, and establishes relationships with ministerial staffs, IOs and non-governmental organizations in-country.

The reconnaissance for TRJR 14 is based on the fictitious SKOLKAN scenario developed by the JWC, which aims to demonstrate NATO solidarity and cohesion, and commitment to Collective Defence.

The Crisis Response Planning itself simulated NATO’s response to the crisis in the Baltic region. The scenario depicts the transition from Article IV to Article V and includes a litany of simulated threats such as airstrikes, bombings and cyber-attacks. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas E. Sachariason, JWC’s Chief Scenario, said: “The scenario, although fictitious, provides a robust planning problem for the training audience. The host nation representatives from the Baltic States have provided a high degree of realism for this training event.”

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The TRJR 14 OLRTs were led by U.S. Army Colonel Ron Dykstra (NRDC-ESP) and UK Royal Marines Colonel R S Copinger-Symes (SFN).

“Within the constraints of the exercise this has been a great opportunity to deploy our team, away from our HQ, and put into practice the preparation and training we have conducted,” Colonel Copinger-Symes said, adding: “Only when you get an opportunity like this do you find out the real lessons and hopefully learn from them. So my assessment is that this is a very beneficial and worthwhile experience but it is only the start as we will continue to train in a variety of different scenarios.”

The primary task of the Crisis Response Planning phase was the development and staffing of the Concept of Operations (CONOPS); a prerequisite for an effective Operational Plan (OPLAN).

JWC’s Officer of Primary Responsibility for TRJR 14, Danish Lieutenant Colonel Bo Andersen, said: “The operational complexities of dealing with a crisis at multiple levels simultaneously are challenging indeed. There are many unknowns, uncertainties and often only sketchy information to be had and there will be friction. But precisely those conditions make it absolutely necessary to exercise the processes and procedures in a complex way.”

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According to the OLRT team leaders, the training benefits were multiple and broad.

Colonel Copinger-Symes noted that the engagement with the role-players was the highlight of the training event. He said: “Dealing with people who are actually from the countries we are planning to work with is more realistic than just dealing with a scenario team. They have played their parts extremely well.”

Individual media training was another benefit the OLRT members took advantage of during their time at the JWC. According to Pete DuBois of the JWC Media Simulation Section, the training focused on the operational theatres of Exercise TRIDENT JAGUAR 14.

"Our media training was a unique opportunity for them to gain practical, on-camera experience delivering key messages in support of their operation. Participants were exposed to two different types of TV interviews, each followed by honest feedback and some constructive criticism. We'll continue to provide media training opportunities during their Battle Staff Training (BST) next month and just before the exercise execution in May. At that point it's 'game on' and we'll put their media handling skills to the test in the exercise."

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As the OLRT training closed, all parties agreed that the synergy of efforts between different parties was impressive, the OLRT training paid off and the Training Objectives were successfully met.

TRJR 14 aim

Exercise TRJR 14 is an operational level command-post exercise (CPX), which aims to train and evaluate NRDC-ESP and SFN as land and maritime expeditionary Joint Task Force Headquarters (JTF HQs) to plan and conduct Small Joint Operations (SJOs) under direct command of SACEUR.

It also aims to exercise NSHQ to deploy and Command and Control (C2) Special Operations Task Groups.

Lieutenant Colonel Bo Andersen pointed out the significance of TRJR 14 in laying a foundation for future NATO Force Structure (NFS) exercises. He lauded the teamwork of the OLRTs during the crisis response training and said: “The ability to rapidly wrap your head around a political/military crisis at the operational/strategic level under pressure, with media attention and within certain time constraints is new to most if not all NATO Force Structure Headquarters. The OLRTs are critical to the planning and their work environment is stressful and sometimes culturally challenging. You can only do this as a team and through cooperation and effective communication. The NRDC-ESP and SFN OLRTs did well in that respect.”