By Spc. Gerald Wilson, 7th Army JMTCFebruary 19, 2009
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - The rumbling emanating from the Joint Multinational Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area wasn't a winter thunderstorm but rather the sounds of artillery hitting the target as Soldiers from the Belgian Land Forces conducted a two-week live-fire exercise. The 1st Carabiniers and the 1st Grenadiers Regiment were training at JMTC to become part of the European Battle Group.
The European Battle Groups were created by the defense ministers of the European Union (EU) in 2004 as a mobile military force which could respond to a crisis situation within a few days. The EU has established 15 groups which rotate continuously to ensure that two are ready to deploy at all times. Belgian Forces are slated to lead the group later this summer.
"We are training in the basics now at the platoon and company level," said Adjutant Serge VanPoppel, the unit's public information officer.
"All these different groups have never worked together," he explained. "We are here to learn how we each operate and how to work as one unit."
According to VanPoppel, the Belgium Land Forces received their national certification in December and are now working on an international certification. Once they have established certification, the unit will add to their ranks a company of French Infantry and a company of French scouts. This will comprise the European Battle group 9/2. This will be the first time Belgium has taken the lead as the staff command.
"We came to JMTC to conduct our training because the facilities are much better than the ones we have back home," VanPoppel said. "Here we can move platoons and companies at one time for evaluation."
According to VanPoppel the unit was able to conduct a variety of live-fire exercises at one time by utilizing several of the vast ranges available within the Grafenwoehr Training Area (GTA). Simultaneously the unit was able to fire heavy artillery batteries, sniper rifles, small arms and mortars. In addition they were able to incorporate medical evacuation procedures on a daily basis.
"The most beautiful thing about training here is we can integrate all our weapons systems into one final exercise," he said. "This is something special that we can't do in Belgium."