By Sgt. 1st Class Carlos M. Burger II, 11th Public Affairs DetachmentSeptember 2, 2014
FERIZAJ, Kosovo (Sept. 2, 2014) -- Outside a government building in Kosovo, a crowd of simulated angry protesters gathered, making demands to the local police. As the crowd intensified in size and hostility, the local police called the region's second and third responders to help assist in securing the building.
As replica rocks, tear gas and Molotov cocktails were thrown, the determined responders took quiet comfort in knowing that this was only an exercise intended to train them for the real thing.
Soldiers with Kosovo Force's Multinational Battle Group-East, with local police and European Union Rule of Law Mission forces, or EULEX, conducted a five-day crowd and riot control event, named Operation Stonewall, in Ferizaj, Aug. 25-29.
The event was facilitated and led by MNBG-E, and the battle group commander said the event's purpose was developing a better understanding of each agency's operations.
"Operation Stonewall was held between the Kosovo Police, EULEX and Kosovo Force, known as KFOR, to make sure we understand how each unit responds for crowd and riot control events," said Col. Charles Hensley, the commander of MNBG-E.
Hensley added this exercise, while similar to Kosovo Force's annual Silver Saber event, is unique due to its focus on the southern cities of Gjilan and Ferizaj. Both cities have historically had less civil disturbances than cities in the northern region of Kosovo.
"What's different, is we're focusing on two of seven regional police partners to conduct this training. The Gjilan and Ferizaj police are out here with the idea that anything can happen anywhere in Kosovo, and we have to be flexible to reinforce our partners as required," Hensley said.
The exercise's first four training days dealt with classroom instruction and practical exercise training. The last day was a full-scale event, designed to give those involved the realistic feel of an actual riot. MNBG-E forces got in on the action as the Polish contingent provided the third responders, U.S. forces operated as evaluators and safeties, and German soldiers served as the crowd of simulated rioters.
Austrian Army Brig. Gen. Anton Wessely, deputy commander of KFOR, said this idea had been in development for some time, and KFOR coordinated with the battle group commanders to develop the training.
"We started a few months ago. The idea was to come together and develop training to keep up the responders' high capabilities, and to improve them," he said.
Hensley added that working in cooperation with police and EULEX is vital to providing Kosovo a safe environment to move from one place to the other without hindrance.
"As the Kosovo Police have become more mature over time, it was important for us to get out and conduct some training with them to make sure that we understood how they viewed their problems and how we could help them if we needed to," Hensley said. "When you think about first, second and third responders, if you don't know how the other units are responding, you're not going to be very good at reinforcing them."
With events like Operation Stonewall, Wessely hopes a channel of communication will develop between the regional police forces, and that they can begin training for crowd and riot control events without KFOR's help.
"A positive development in this exercise is that this is not only a KFOR-specific event. Any time local training is needed, the institutions can invite each other and execute the training," Wessely said.