U.S., Slovenian senior NCOs partner for team-building, training

By U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
May 4, 2010

(Left to right) Command Sgt. Maj. Janez Smid from the Forces Command of the Slovenian Armed Forces; Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Boom, senior enlisted observer for the “Warhog” team at U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center; Command Sgt. Maj Paul Thompson, senior enlisted observer for JMRC’s “Mustang” team; Command Sgt Maj. Hu Rhodes, commandant of the Warrior Leader Course at USAREUR’s 7th Army NCO Academy; and Command Sgt. Maj. Marko Pogorevc from the Slovenian Armed Forces’ Center of Excellence for Mountain Warfare, navigate a river during the “mountain adventure race” portion of an NCO staff ride in Slovenia, April 2. (Photo by Sgt. Maj. Rodney Williams)
(Left to right) Command Sgt. Maj. Janez Smid from the Forces Command of the Slovenian Armed Forces; Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Boom, senior enlisted observer for the “Warhog” team at U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center; Command Sgt. Maj Paul Thompson, senior enlisted observer for JMRC’s “Mustang” team; Command Sgt Maj. Hu Rhodes, commandant of the Warrior Leader Course at USAREUR’s 7th Army NCO Academy; and Command Sgt. Maj. Marko Pogorevc from the Slovenian Armed Forces’ Center of Excellence for Mountain Warfare, navigate a river during the “mountain adventure race” portion of an NCO staff ride in Slovenia, April 2. (Photo by Sgt. Maj. Rodney Williams)

POLJCE, Slovenia -- Nearly 50 senior noncommissioned officers assigned to U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Training Command built their knowledge of military history and its lessons as they strengthened partnerships with their counterparts in the Slovenian Armed Forces during a recent weeklong staff ride here.

Staff ride participants had an opportunity to take a look at the events surrounding the “Slovenian War of Independence,” also known as the Ten-Day War, that began June 25, 1991. One of the objectives of the event was to allow senior NCO participants to study a fairly recent European conflict on the actual terrain where the battles were fought.

The last JMTC staff ride took place in the Czech Republic, said Sgt. Maj. Michael Kennedy, operations sergeant major for the JMTC. Planners chose Slovenia for this event, he added, to allow participants to study a more contemporary conflict.

“The idea grew from just a look -- a study of the Ten-Day War -- to a brief look at World War I and mountain warfare,” Kennedy added. “There are obvious reasons why the study of mountain warfare is important now.”
“Some of the lessons learned from some of the battles that took place during the Ten-Day War compare nicely to current operations in Afghanistan,” he said.

The staff ride began with an overview of the Ten-Day War presented by the curator and staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces Military Museum, who outlined the events that led to the conflict, and a Slovenian commander, who shared his experiences during the war.

Kennedy said the opportunity to have veterans address the participants was another reason planners chose to study the Ten-Day War.

“It's very hard these days to do European staff rides and get actual veterans of the battle to come and talk about their participation,” he said.

After the discussions, participants toured the museum’s collection of war photographs and weapons and equipment used during the war by Slovenian and Yugoslav armies.

The staff ride also presented an opportunity for the senior NCO leaders to conduct some combined training on a more informal level, as Slovenian and American participants exchanged information and experiences that should help forge the way ahead for both armies. For example, a group of first sergeants from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center’s 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, based in Hohenfels, Germany, shared experiences and lessons learned from their recent deployments to Afghanistan.

“My objective was to have the Slovenian senior NCOs leave with a better understanding of the enemy that they will be facing,” said 1st Sgt. Chris Weiskittel of the 1-4th’s Bravo Company. “I wanted them to understand that the enemy in Afghanistan is very different from that in Iraq.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Igor Tomasic, sergeant major of the Slovenian Armed Forces, said the presentation was a concrete demonstration of the value of the partnership between the American and Slovenian forces.

“That information will help us when we send troops there (to Afghanistan) sometime this summer,” Tomasic said.
Weiskittel said securing key terrain was vital to his unit’s success during its deployment, just as it was for Slovenian forces battling the Yugoslav army during the Ten-Day War.

Those tactics helped Slovenian forces to win during the Ten-Day War, and they correlate to the current fight in Afghanistan, added Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Boom, senior enlisted observer for JMRC’s “Warhog” team.

In addition to providing opportunities for the Slovenian and American partners to share information about training, education and deployment experiences, the staff ride gave NCO participants a chance to join forces for some team-building on a different level.

On the last day of the event, participants were grouped into teams and provided with an instructor from the Slovenian Armed Forces Center of Excellence for Mountain Warfare. After some training, the teams competed in several timed events on mountainous terrain, including crossing a river in a raft, rappelling, crossing a mountain ridge, and transporting an injured Soldier.

“The purpose of the event was to give the guys a taste of the sort of mountain training that is conducted here,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marko Pogorevc, the school’s senior enlisted leader.

The course compressed what is normally three days of training at the center into a one-day event, Pogorevc explained.

“The first day would be to get familiar with the terrain, the second ay to get used to the gear, and the third day to actually go through the course,” he said.

While the event was turned into a timed race as an incentive, its real purpose was to strengthen the partnership between the two forces, participants said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Janez Smid, senior enlisted leader for the Slovenian army Forces Command, said his nation’s military already has excellent personal and professional ties with the JMTC, and that partnership leads to events such as the staff ride that improve and strengthen that relationship.

“Hopefully this staff ride will offer a bit of insight for the NCO leaders of JMTC, as far as when they train a Slovenian Soldier, they will know from which environment they are coming from and how developed Slovenia is as a country and an armed force,” added Smid.

“They (Slovenian Soldiers) help us a lot with JMRC rotations, and we do a lot of training for them,” said Kennedy. “We train with the Slovenians side by side and now there is a personal side where we spent time with them. We walked away (from the staff ride) being friends and not just part of a coalition. And that goes a long way.”