The 2nd Mechanised Battalion “Pume“ (based in Našice) in early August welcomed new members for…
Over a thousand members of the Croatian Armed Forces took part in Puma 19, a combat-firing exercise and the Croatian Army’s main training event, at Eugen Kvaternik Training Area in Slunj from 1st to 3rd July.
The main authority in the exercise was the Guards Armoured Mechanized Brigade, to which infantry regiments as well as artillery, engineer, air defence, signals and NBC units were attached. Other participants included the commands of the Croatian Army’s combat support units, the Croatian Army Command as well as the units of the Croatian Air Force, the Support Command and the Military Police.
“The objective of the exercise is to conduct defence operations. We have integrated the PzH 2000 self-propelled guns and other weapons belonging to the Artillery Missile Regiment as well as the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters into the manoeuvre forces of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion Pume (Pumas), Guards Armoured Mechanized Brigade, who are our main role players. Six reserve infantry regiments have been engaged, as well. The exercise itself was preceded by a military decision-making process, a computer-assisted exercise as well as formal internal and external evaluations of armoured and mechanized squads, platoons and companies. I wish to emphasize that this exercise is extremely important for the development of our forces’ interoperability, flexibility and mobility. It is an opportunity for commanders, units and staff to train tactics, techniques and procedures,” said the Commander of the Guards Armoured Mechanized Brigade Colonel Mijo Validžić, with whom CROMIL spoke at the training area in Slunj ahead of the dress rehearsal. Colonel Validžić highlighted that the exercise was being conducted in very demanding weather and field conditions, which CROMIL’s team witnessed during our visit.
The July heat and temperature which exceeded 30 degrees Celsius during the dress rehearsal impeded the task execution for the exercise’s participants, who were carrying full combat gear.
Because of the integrated, synchronized and joint engagement of the Kiowa Warrior observation and reconnaissance helicopters as well as support provided to the brigade in defensive tasks by land forces and the artillery’s PzH 2000 self-propelled guns, Colonel Validžić labelled Puma 19 as a “miniature version of Velebit”. That was a reference to Velebit 18 – Joint Force, the most complex military exercise in the Republic of Croatia to date. It was jointly conducted by all units of the Croatian Armed Forces last year. “Integrated, joint operations have become a standard in Guards Armoured Mechanized Brigade’s exercises,” Colonel Validžić underlined.
“I am extremely pleased with the manner in which the participants of the exercise have integrated armoured, mechanized, artillery and air units. The successful execution of this exercise will raise all participants’ skill level and increase their level of readiness for attack and defence operations in the protection of our homeland’s sovereignty,” Colonel Validžić concluded.
“As the main role players in the exercise, our task is to stop the enemy’s advancement with resolute defence,” explained the Commander of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion Pume (Pumas), Guards Armoured Mechanized Brigade Major Zlatko Iživkić, who also commanded Task Force 1 at the exercise.
“My unit has to carry out set tasks and commands. The objective is to evaluate the joint engagement of artillery, manoeuvre, armoured and air units. Simultaneous presence of several types of manoeuvre and fire is the most complex battlefield scenario imaginable,” Major Iživkić said and proceeded to explain the exercise scenario.
“So as to stall the opponent, guards have been deployed to the area of operations, while Company Team 1 and the 2nd Mechanized Company are deployed on the forward edge of the battle area. A reinforced tank company is kept in reserve. Once these units have carried out their tasks, they will receive artillery support. During their activities, they shall be supported by Kiowa Warrior helicopters from air. The helicopters will also carry out their basic tasks – reconnoitre, adjust fire and strike,” described Major Iživkić, whose unit is comprised of 334 people.
Aside from its primary objective (training, integrating and demonstrating the capabilities of the Croatian Army’s units in conducting defence operations), exercise Puma 19 also had a secondary objective: to train the procedures in the Croatian Army Command during the commander’s decision-making process, with special emphasis being laid on defence operations and integrating combat support units with manoeuvre units. Artillery, engineer, air defence, signals and NBC units were added to the Guards Armoured Mechanized Brigade to form the primary training group, while the secondary training group was comprised of the Croatian Army Command as well as the commands of the Croatian Army’s infantry regiments and combat support units.
“Exercise Puma 19 is a lot more complex to plan and conduct than what you have seen today. After the drafting of entry documents for a tactical situation, with the Croatian Army Command acting as the Command of the 1st Division, subordinate commanders were given a task and a deadline for reaching a decision. Afterwards, their decisions were presented to the commander of the Croatian Army, who played the role of the commander of the 1st Division. So as to verify those decisions and give the subordinate units’ commands more opportunities to train for a field exercise, a distributed computer-assisted exercise (CAX) was organized in early April. Beside the subordinate commands, the commands of reserve regiments also took part in it. We are now in the final, most complex part of the exercise; a tactical field exercise featuring combat firing,” said the Deputy Commander of the Croatian Armed Forces Brigadier General Boris Šerić, who played the role of the Head of the Managing Staff at exercise Puma 19.
General Šerić also highlighted the fact that the exercise had been planned in extremely hot weather and on a challenging terrain. Great physical and mental efforts, concentration and orientation on interoperability were required in order for the plan devised by the superior command to be realized.
“The exercise was an opportunity for the Croatian Army’s staffs and commands to practice making decisions and commanding subordinate units. The endgame is to increase their operational capability to plan and conduct defence operations, with particular emphasis being laid on the command and control (C2) system, force protection as well as the integration of combat units with combat support units and manoeuvre units,” General Šerić concluded.
After the conclusion of the final part of the exercise (tactical exercise featuring combat firing), the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Drago Matanović congratulated all participating soldiers, expressing his satisfaction over the their extraordinary readiness demonstrated at the exercise.
“After our successful participation at international military exercise Immediate Response 19, where we confirmed our readiness and interoperability with allies and partner countries, we wish to train the Croatian Army’s units in conducting defence operations through military exercise Puma 19. The ultimate aim is to increase our operational capability to plan and conduct defence operations, with emphasis being laid on decision-making processes, staff operations, command and control, force protection as well as the integration of combat support units with manoeuvre units. All set objectives were realized during the exercise. Likewise, you have demonstrated that certain segments need improvement and ought to be integrated with the whole system in the upcoming period,” said General Matanović, underlining that the exercise focused on increasing the operational capability of the Croatian Army’s commands to plan and conduct defence operations. Roughly one thousand participating soldiers had put their existing capabilities to test and developed new capabilities that would enable the Croatian Armed Forces to respond to potential threats and crises effectively, thus keep Croatia safe.
“Much like military exercise Velebit 18 – Joint Force demonstrated the Croatian Armed Forces’ capability to defend the integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Croatia with joint engagement in land, in air, at sea and in cyberspace, Puma 19 has confirmed that the units of the Croatian Army are capable of conducting complex defence operations at a higher level,” General Matanović said, adding that an analysis would follow after the conclusion of the exercise and lessons learnt would be implemented in the planning of military training in 2020 and 2021, when exercise Velebit 21 – Joint Force is set to take place.
The Commander of the Croatian Army Major General Siniša Jurković addressed the participants of the exercise, saying that all activities planned in the preceding months had been successfully conducted in the field, while the participants had realized the set objectives.
“We have witnessed your force synchronization and integration capabilities, force protection capabilities quick manoeuvres, as well as extraordinary fire power in defence operations. Today, you have proven that you are masters of your trade. You have demonstrated that you are exceptionally skilled at handling and operating not only personal weapons and equipment but also complex weapons systems. Your excellent execution of the exercise in extreme heat is a manifestation of your readiness and determination to support the realization of the Croatian Army’s main task and vision: to become a highly trained, professionally led branch of the victorious Croatian Armed Forces. It is of utmost importance that we develop and maintain highly-trained forces that will function as the elementary guarantee of security. We attain that objective by training our soldiers and troops as well as by maintaining the highest level of readiness,” General Jurković said, concluding: “You have made me a proud commander of the Croatian Army today.”
Brigadier General Boris Šerić highlighted the fact that the exercise had been planned in extremely hot weather and on a challenging terrain. Great physical and mental efforts, concentration and orientation on interoperability were required in order for the plan devised by the superior command to be realized.
“I am extremely pleased with the manner in which the participants of the exercise have integrated armoured, mechanized, artillery and air units. The successful execution of this exercise will raise all participants’ skill level and increase their level of readiness for attack and defence operations in the protection of our homeland’s sovereignty,” said Colonel Mijo Validžić.
Text by MARTINA BUTORAC
Photo by TOMISLAV BRANDT
Translation by IVA GUGO