Although this is the fourth rotation of the counterinsurgency and peacekeeping operations training package, this will mark the first time the GCE has had to train with two different nations and languages simultaneously.
Since April, the Ground Combat Element of BSRF-11 has been working with countries in the Black Sea and Balkan regions to enhance the military capacity of partner Eastern European nations participating in the exercise.
“We have a lot of training to do,” said Lt. Col. Nelson S. Cardella, commanding officer, BSRF-11, “and I think the Bulgarians and Serbians will work well together.”
“We are neighbors and we have to [train] together to have interoperability with Serbia and other NATO partners,” said Bulgarian Capt. Svetoslav Godinov, company commander, Bulgarian 38th Infantry Battalion.
The two-week COIN and PKO training will enhance the two foreign militaries’ knowledge of: vehicle and personnel searching; vehicle entry-control points; counter-improvised explosive device procedures; Military Operations in Urban Terrain; combat marksmanship ranges; a live-fire machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade range; non-lethal weapons employment and a healthy dose of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
“The world [situation] changes every day and right now the situation is COIN,” said Godinov. “This gives us an opportunity to increase our knowledge on these [operations], so I hope it will help the security cooperation in this area,” he added.
The current rotations with the Bulgarian and Serbians follow the Romania Marines, Romanian army and Macedonian army rotations of the COIN training. The Marines have adapted to conduct their training in two languages, pulling from lessons learned from past rotations to improve the efficiency and productivity of the training.
“We’ve already known from [the previous] rotations that we have to make changes [to the training] to [accommodate] every new group and nation,” said Lance Cpl. Jason D. Caudill, rifleman, BSRF-11.
Some differences from previous rotations include Afghanistan-centered tactics for patrolling and convoy operations, the inclusion of a .50-caliber machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade range and learning to conduct training and maintaining fluidity between two translators.
“Working with the two nations will be a little more difficult but we can overcome that with hard planning and organization,” added the Tuscaloosa, Ala., native.
“These guys came really eager to train and look like they’re ready to get [started].”
Just as last year for BSRF-10, the training will be in the almost 50-year-old Novo Selo Training Area of Bulgaria, which accommodates the training with approximately 55-square-miles of land, designated ranges for combat marksmanship, sectors for convoy and patrol operations, and dedicated urban combat environments for Military Operations in Urban Terrain training.
“We are excited to be back in Novo Selo; this is a great training facility and it affords us the ability to train and maneuver [the way we need],” said Cardella.
Although Bulgaria has some experience working with U.S. forces in Novo Selo, this will be the first time for Serbia to participate in the training.
“We are both Balkan people,” said Godinov, “and I hope that [BSRF] will increase the trust among us and the countries in this region.”
The COIN training is supplemental to the Bulgarian’s six-month pre-deployment to Afghanistan, slated this summer.
Black Sea Rotational Force 11 is a rotational deployment of Marines to the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions to work with foreign nations and help build their military training capacity, promote stability throughout the region, and build enduring partnerships with 13 nations throughout Eastern Europe.