Command post exercise precursor to turnover

5 Aug 2003 | Staff Sgt. David Bennett

U.S. Marine and international forces participated in five-day command post exercise dubbed Common Thrust, which many consider a trial run for the upcoming military turnover of southern Iraq.

The exercise, headed by Polish and Spanish forces, concluded Aug. 5. During the five-day event, simulated scenarios were conducted to challenge the participants and evaluate their response to such things as requesting aviation support, dispatching quick reaction teams, calling for medical helicopters and employing civil affairs assets.

Communication between battalions, brigades and the parent command, which is the newly formed Multinational Division, was done through daily tactical reports and intelligence reports, which were then reviewed by American military evaluators.

The primary purpose of the exercise was to ensure that reporting systems and procedures between battalions on the ground all the way to division level are in place when various international military units assume authority of southern Iraq following the departure of the First Marine Expeditionary Force.

"For our division, such an exercise is paramount," said Col. Antczak Zdzislaw, chief of staff for the Multinational Division, which will oversee Iraq's southern region.

Because it is the first time Poland has led such a peacekeeping effort, good planning and the ability to perform will determine how successful its troops are in southern Iraq. In light of this, the CPX was a good test, officials said.

Colonel Marek Ojrzanowski, a brigade commander with the Multinational Division, said he was satisfied with the exercise, after it had entered its third day.

"It's very important now for us to work in such an environment, " he said. "It is very important for this mission, the flow of information and the knowledge of procedures."

The multinational force is made up of 16 countries besides Poland, including Spain, Denmark, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Mongolia, and the Dominican Republic.  Spain, which is Poland's primary partner in the exercise, is heading one of the three international brigades that comprise the Multinational Division.

Brigadier Gen. Alfredo Cardona Torres, the brigade commander for the Spanish said the international venture is different because of players involved, but carries a universal theme of partnership.

"The integration between the Polish and the Spanish constituent is very good," he said.

The Spanish commander said a strong partnership is necessary not only for the exercise, but for the coming months as reconstruction in southern Iraq continues.

"My point of view is that this not an isolated exercise but the beginning of the mission," Torres said.

In the end, both Torres and Ojrzanowski deemed the CPX a success.

Major Gen. Keith Stalder, deputy commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, placed high importance on the event, saying that the future ramifications will be significant for all the countries involved, especially Iraq.

"This is a cornerstone event in the transfer of authority," Stalder said. "This is a historical undertaking in what we'll do for the Iraqi people. The situation on the ground is improving everyday. By and large, we are making progress."