TBILISI, Georgia – Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment ‘Black Knights’, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (1CD), mentor and advise the Georgian Defence Forces in support of the Georgia Defence Readiness Program – Training (GDRP-T) mission at the combat training center (CTC) in Vaziani.
The Black Knights support helps Georgia modernize their light infantry battalions, improve combat readiness, validate their training program and augment Georgia’s ongoing defense reform efforts.
The GDRP-T is a bilateral United States-Georgian training program that started May 1, 2018 with the intention of training nine Georgian battalions over a three-year span.
“Georgia is one of America’s most important strategic partners in this region,” said Maj. Tyler Rund, the Black Knights GDRP-T detachment’s chief. “Our assistance to their development and increased capabilities contributes to the accomplishment of U.S. Army Europe’s objective to build and sustain strong relationships with our allies and partners.”
The GDRP-T creates a unique training experience for Soldiers and improves the interoperability between Georgia and the U.S. The partnership includes training relationships focused on staff planning, company and battalion operations, reconnaissance, artillery and mortars and medical assistance.
When asked to describe his experience with the Black Knights, Georgian Col. Roman Janjulia, commander of the CTC and Maj. Rund’s principle partner said, “I am proud of the way our relationship is mutually beneficial to the Georgians and our U.S. counterparts. The security environment around us may be unstable at times, but through the GDRP mission, I know the relationship with our partner remains strong.”
Past U.S. units focused primarily on observing, coaching and training their Georgian counterparts. However, as the program continues to progress, the Black Knights focus on mentoring and setting the conditions to transition the program to the Georgians. The Georgian trainers take the lead and provide valuable feedback to the rotating units while their U.S. mentors stand in the background and provide support when needed.
The relationship between the 1-5 CAV Soldiers and the Georgians is critical to the success of the program. Following each training event, the Georgian trainers and the Black Knight Soldiers collaborate and provide units with insight on where they can improve.
“One of my favorite parts of this mission is my interaction with Georgian trainers,” said Cpt. Ryan Ybarra, one of the mentors with the Black Knights. “My counterpart is extremely receptive to the observations I share with him because he wants to do all he can to make the units better. In turn, I am motivated to ensure I give him helpful information.”
Rund’s position allows him to see the training as well as the planning that goes into it. He observed, “The Georgians’ ownership of this program is one of the most rewarding aspects of our deployment. The willing acceptance of our contributions to their development, as well as the investment of my team and our predecessors, shows this is a model that is effective and productive.”
Cpt. Evan Bertsch, a recent graduate of the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, U.S., partners with the battalion staff of the rotational unit (RTU). His observations are used to develop operational plans and logistical support for units.
“The training is multi-faceted. Each rotational unit spends 16 weeks at the CTC,” explained Bertsch, the detachment’s executive officer. “Our U.S. mentors observe the unit training on everything from the individual level, such as small arms marksmanship to collective training and validations at the squad, platoon, company and battalion levels. We all get to improve our individual skills by helping the Georgians sharpen theirs.”
The partnership between the Georgian OCTs and the U.S. Soldiers gives the Black Knights an opportunity to share their experience and provide positive feedback to not only the units, but to the OCTs as well.
“As we mentor and train our rotational units, we are mentored by our U.S. counterparts and their experience is really valuable to us,” said Georgian 1st Lt. Nika Zhorzhliani, C Co. senior instructor. “They have done trainings like this and know more about some details that we don’t. We learn a lot from their personal experience and the result is we learn how to better mentor our RTUs.”