CAMP VRELO, Kosovo (October 16, 2013) --U.S. soldiers from Company C, 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment quickly unload their helicopters and with shields and batons in hand, rush towards their staging area.
Just up the road, members from the Kosovo Police and the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) are attempting to calm a growing group of demonstrators. The crowd is becoming increasingly violent and EULEX's capabilities to disperse the crowd are quickly exceeded.
To help control the escalating situation, EULEX requests assistance from Kosovo Forces and the U.S. soldiers waiting up the road quickly move forward to conduct a relief-in-place with their EULEX counterparts.
Thankfully, the demonstrators here are simply role-players for a training exercise called Silver Saber held at Camp Vrelo Oct. 16. Members from the Kosovo Police, EULEX and KFOR took part in the three-day exercise to help improve the coordination between the different security elements in Kosovo and to test their crowd and riot control capabilities.
The soldiers from the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade make up part of KFOR's Multinational Battle Group-East: a multinational task force made up of soldiers from nine different countries as well as National Guardsmen from five states.
Silver Saber brought a number of these KFOR soldiers together with their Kosovo Police and EULEX counterparts to train on crowd and riot control, relieving a multinational unit currently engaged in CRC, breaching various obstacles and medically evacuating a casualty.
U.S. Army Col. David Woods, the MNBG-E and 525th BfSB Commander, said this exercise was important because it gave KFOR, who operates as a third responder, the opportunity to work with the other security elements in Kosovo.
"We [KFOR] are in a role as a third responder- and that's not typical for us," said Woods, a Denbo, Pa. native. "We are typically the lead and that's hard for us sometimes to wrap our heads around."
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Musil, the Noncommisioned-Officer-in-Charge for Detachment 3, Co. C, 1st Sqdn., 38th Cav. Regt., said another challenge the U.S. soldiers faced was their inexperience in performing CRC as a part of peace support operations.
"Nine months ago, none of us had done anything like this [CRC] before," said Musil, a Chicago native. "We're traditionally a light infantry or recon element, so CRC isn't something we're used to."
Woods said that though the battle group has been conducting CRC training over the past several months, the biggest thing they have learned since arriving in Kosovo is how to peacefully deescalate the situation.
"[Upon arriving to Kosovo] we lacked the understanding of escalation. We put equipment on and went straight to shield and baton, stomp and drag; right to a physical competition with our competitor," said Woods. "Now our goal is not to engage you in CRC; our goal is just to move you without ever touching you, to deescalate the situation."
To help learn escalation the soldiers from the 525th BfSB leveraged the experience and expertise of their multinational partners.
"The biggest [learning] part was working with the foreign coys," said Musil. "The platoon on platoon CRC events that we did really set us up for success, because we saw how other nations conducted their training, so it gave us better ideas for tactics, techniques and procedures as well as how they conduct their operations."
Woods said despite the language differences between the various multinational forces, communication wasn't a problem for the battle group at Silver Saber.
"When you train together as much as we do, you start to reduce the challenges," said Woods. "Silver Saber highlighted that confidence process and development that we have gone through from individual leaders to a collective team and demonstrated our capabilities."
For Musil, one of the biggest benefits of Silver Saber was putting their CRC TTPs to the test and continuing to develop their knowledge set.
"Being adaptable and flexible is what really makes it count," Musil said. "The training really is an opportunity for us to take a new skill, put it in your kit bag and save it for another time."
The 525th BfSB soldiers hit the halfway point for their deployment right before Silver Saber, and Woods said he has seen a considerable amount of development within the battle group.
"Our formation has grown significantly," said Woods. "I'm confident that we are more than prepared and resourced to deal with any circumstance or any situation that presents itself in Kosovo."