ILLISKY TRAINING AREA, Kazakhstan –
Following ten days of intense field training in a simulated peacekeeping environment, the nearly 400 multinational soldiers who participated in Exercise Steppe Eagle 19 concluded the event in a closing ceremony, June 27. The soldiers and their senior national representatives from eight countries committed to common goals for future peace and interoperability in the Central and South Asia region.
Five nations – Kazakhstan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – sent participants while India, Turkey, and Uzbekistan each sent observers to the exercise. The annual, multilateral exercise also highlighted the steady improvements by the Kazakhstani Ground Forces as a recognized member of the international security community.
U.S., U.K., Tajikistani, Kyrgyzstani soldiers trained alongside members of the Kazakhstani Ground Force's Peacekeeping Battalion during Steppe Eagle 19. Battle staffs practiced the Military Decision Making Process as soldiers trained on checkpoints and convoy operations; countering improvised explosive devices, restoring public order; providing medical support, and performing civil-military operations that culminated into a weeklong field training exercise at the Peacekeeping Operations Training Center in nearby Chilikemer. All these tasks were tied to realistic security crisis scenarios that militaries are ordered to help restore public trust to enable governance or continue supporting longstanding UN security missions around the world until national leaders agree to the terms of peace.
Ambassador William H. Moser, the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, was joined by U.K. Ambassador Michael Gifford; U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Hill, the Deputy Commanding General for U.S. Army Central; and U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the Adjutant General for the state of Arizona, to preside over the ceremony.
Ambassador Moser said the U.S. military’s large mix of forces demonstrated his nation’s resolve to developing regional relationships and sharing best practices with the other participating countries.
“A sizeable U.S. contingent of over 120 members from the U.S. Army Central Command and the Arizona National Guard have traveled many miles to the steppe of Kazakhstan to share knowledge, build mutual trust, and demonstrate U.S. commitment to our relationship in the region,” Ambassador Moser said. “… It is this common commitment to UN principles that sets Steppe Eagle apart as a unique venue for cooperation.”
The five participating nations divided into company-sized elements comprised of three Kazakhstani platoons, a Tajikistani platoon augmented by a British squad, and an American platoon to apply lessons learned in a field training scenario. An American company commander took charge of the Americans, Tajikistanis, and British squad, and a Kazakhstani company commander directed all Kazakhstani forces.
Maj. Gen. Hill thanked the participating nations for their commitment to regional peace and stability and recognized the Arizona Army National Guard’s “partnership for peace commitment with the Republic of Kazakhstan” since 1993 under the State Partnership Program.
“You are an outstanding state partner and your contributions to Steppe Eagle cannot be overstated,” Maj. Gen. Hill said.
The State Partnership Program helps to support and assure U.S. allies, deter aggression, and build lasting security cooperation relationships. Arizona Army National Guard members work with the Kazakhstani Ground Forces to perform partner capacity activities that strengthen shared defense and help assure mutual security interests.
Maj. Gen. Hill charged the multinational troops to take their lessons learned and apply them to future missions as partners and coalition members.
“Many of you have had the opportunity to train with a highly-talented group of soldiers, be exposed to new techniques and learning opportunities, but also to be pushed beyond your personal limits through both fatigue or frustrations to help your team thrive. Take those new lessons and remember them,” Maj. Gen. Hill said.
British Ambassador Michael Gifford praised the expertise and eagerness of the participating Central Asian countries and said they proved themselves throughout Steppe Eagle 19.
“I’ve heard nothing but praise for the professionalism and enthusiasm which the Kazakh, Tajik, and Kyrgyz participants have approached every element of the exercise, and it’s also very good, indeed, to see observers from Uzbekistan, Turkey and India,” Ambassador Gifford said.
The ambassador also alluded to Kazakhstan’s increasing contributions to international security, notably in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, where 120 soldiers from the Kazakhstani Ground Forces’ Peacekeeping Battalion support an Indian Army battalion.
“In an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world, where the rules-based international system is under constant threat, the role of the United Nations as the ultimate guarantor of international security has never been more important,” Ambassador Gifford said. “The desire to improve UN peacekeeping capabilities is something that unites all countries.”
Desiring to increase its contributions to international security, Kazakhstan wants the Peacekeeping Operations Training Center in Chilikemer to serve as the region’s primary training venue for UN missions. The center simulates a peacekeeping environment, boasting two forward operating bases, a mock village, entry control points, and a battalion headquarters building. Before the closing ceremony, the distinguished visitors toured the training area and watched a Kazakhstani military-led demonstration of a cordon and search and medical evacuation mission.
The last Steppe Eagle exercise was conducted in the United States in South Carolina, and next year’s Steppe Eagle is scheduled to occur in the United Kingdom. Senior military leaders from the Kazakhstani Ground Forces will give a presentation about Steppe Eagle to other national delegations at the USARCENT-hosted Land Forces Symposium for Central Asia and South Asia in Washington, D.C. at the end of August. The conference will center mostly on best practices and lessons learned from recent peacekeeping missions and stability operations in the CASA region and CENTCOM area of responsibility. U.S. Army Central Soldiers will also participate in Exercise Regional Cooperation in Tajikistan for two weeks in August to facilitate further interoperability among partners in the Central and South Asia region.