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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Feature Articles

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Number: 85

On land and in the sky

The paratrooper capacity is part of the 6th ‘Almogaveres’ Brigade’s DNA, but its contribution to the 2020 Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is comprised of a unit, with support from the artillery and sappers.

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The 6th ‘Almogávares’ Brigade’s paratrooper capacity is an idiosyncrasy which marks it as different from other units in the army. Having this capacity does not mean the Brigade has sacrificed in other areas. Instead, it is an extra which is added on top of the other capacities which every combatant must possess.

This is proven by the fact that the Brigade can be designated to carry out missions which have nothing to do with parachute jumps or infiltrations. For example, they are currently contributing to NATO’s VJTF, which will be in its readiness phase throughout 2020.

 

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Specifically, the paratroopers of the 6th ‘Almogávares’ Brigade will contribute the II/4 ‘Roger de Lauria’ Protected Infantry unit – equipped with the tactical mobility and protection offered by vehicles such as the Lynx, RG-31s or VAMTACs – to the Force, whose land element is led by the 21st Mechanised Mountain Brigade from the Polish Army. Furthermore, they will contribute a Battery from the 6th Campaign Artillery Group and a Company from the 6th Sapper Battalion. These forces from the Tactical Group have dedicated the first semester of the year to the national training phase. The culmination of this phase was the Evaluation/Certification exercise which they faced at the end of May in the ‘Chinchilla’ Training Centre in Albacete.

Before leaving for the manoeuvre ground, they passed the administrative phase, which consisted of an Organizational Review of the enlisted personnel, equipment, weapons and vehicles as well as the documentary part in the ‘Principe’ base in Madrid and the ‘Santa Bárbara’ barracks (in Javali Nuevo, Murcia) on the 15th and 16th of May.

The review was carried out by an evaluating team, made up of staff from the Chief of Staff of the Brigade, following NATO criteria for this type of proceeding. To check this, an observer from the Bulgarian Army was sent from the Headquarters of NATO’s Land Component Control, situated in Izmir (Turkey), to accompany them. He was joined by another comrade from the US Army during the training level evaluation which took place in ‘Chinchilla’, in which the manoeuvre unit and all its support carried out offensive/defensive operations. The actions took place in a conventional/hybrid setting situated in central Europe, as in previous operations.

The Polish Brigade will find itself with units which, should the VJTF 2020 be activated, would be under their control for the ‘Dragon’ exercise (which is already in the international training phase) in June in their own country. Usually, this starts in the second semester of the year before they go on stand-by. On this occasion, this has been moved forward to the start of the summer. This change means that “it’s not training for use,” says Colonel Herrero, chief of the 4th ‘Naples’ Regiment and director of the army. In spite of the fact that the periods are shorter, the Brigade’s units are prepared to face the new phase in which the unit’s top brass will go to Poland to integrate in joint exercise response cells.

PREPARED ‘PACKAGE’

Manoeuvre Unit

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The light armoured battalion unit which the ‘Almogávares’ Brigade contributes to the ground forces of the VJTF 2020 is comprised of staff from the ‘Roger de Lauria’ unit from the 4th ‘Nápoles’ Infantry Paratrooper Regiment, plus a company from the ‘Órtiz de Zárate’ unit from the 5th ‘Zaragoza’ Infantry Regiment. It also includes a Portuguese company and has MRAP vehicles such as the Lynx and the RG-31, and VAMTAC and armoured personnel carriers.

During the manoeuvres in ‘Chinchilla’, the companies carried out combat activities in urbanized zones; live ammunition fire from individual and collective weapons, as well as those mounted on their own vehicles; route surveys; offensive and defensive actions in the face of an army at tactical group level, in which they carried out a full operation against a conventional enemy. “VJTF training conditions us to face a conventional enemy which, in this case, is a mechanized enemy protected by wheeled means.

It is not the asymmetrical threat which we have become accustomed to in recent years,” emphasises Lieutenant colonel Amezcua, chief of the 2nd Unit.

 

ARTILLERY

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The Artillery Group from the 6th Campaign contributes a Light Gun 105mm howitzer to the fire support unit of the VJTF. During the alpha exercise, they practised deploying the sections, technical shooting and settlement changes, in order to be ready to accompany the advance of the manoeuvre during the beta phase, because “support can never become a burden,” as the battery chief, Captain Martínez, stressed.

To guarantee this, the different groups practised the change from transport to shooting position up to 25 times a day. As if that wasn’t enough, Sergeant Pueyo, chief of the leading component of his section, added an extra complication: do it wearing NBC protection suits.

This was an opportunity for the new artillerymen, such as soldiers Ramírez and Téllez who are in their first manoeuvres with the component, to gain confidence in their different loading positions.

 

SAPPERS

The 6th Sappers Battalion contributes a support company with two Sappers sections and one Terrain Organization section to the VJTF 2020. The latter, led by Lieutenant Naranjo and equipped with earth moving machinery, dedicated part of its training to making settlements for artillery units, one of the missions with which they could be entrusted should the VJTF be activated.

 

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The 1st ‘Sagunto’ Group from the 8th ‘Lusitania’, the cavalry unit from the 6th Brigade, was in the same place at the same time as the units assigned to the VJTF. Although they do not form part of the group of forces which are at NATO’s disposal and they would not be transferred, one of their squadrons forms part of the Section for the Protection of the National Support Element. For this reason, in ‘Chinchilla’ they focussed on “facilities’ security activities, access control, protection of leaders or convoy escort, all of which are specific duties of a protection mission,” indicates Lieutenant Colonel Santiago, chief of the Group. Basic crew instruction was also added to this list of tasks, because the squadron has a large number of soldiers who have recently been incorporated into the unit, making this a necessary addition.

 

Leaders in their key capacity

The biggest joint combined paratrooper infiltration exercise to take place in Europe has a Spanish stamp. It is the ‘Lone Paratrooper’, organised and led by the 6th ‘Almogávares’ Paratroopers Brigade and it was most recently held from the 6th to the 14th of May in the Basic Air Academy in La Virgen del Camino, Leon. Paratroopers from the US, French, Dutch, Italian, Polish and Portuguese armies joined their Spanish counterparts and practised and shared jumping procedures at high altitude - around 25,000 feet (roughly 8,3000 metres) – using oxygen, HAHO (high altitude high opening) and HALO (high altitude low opening). The principal objective of the exercise is to train the participating staff in paratrooper infiltration techniques and share experiences with soldiers from other countries which use different procedures to boost interoperability in future missions.