KAZAKHSTAN – More than 1,000 personnel from nine different countries participated in the 11th annual Steppe Eagle exercise at the Iliskiy Training Center here from Aug. 5-23.
Each year, the exercise consists of battalion and brigade command operations, as well as training Kazakhstani Soldiers in military tactics designed to comply with United Nations standards. The focus ranges from camp security operations to riot control.
“I’ve been involved in quite a few of these exercises over the years, and I can honestly say that the Kazakhs have made strides from a tactical level to a Soldier level, all the way up to brigade level,” said Capt. Christopher Kent, one of the mentors from the Arizona Army National Guard.
“The Kazakhs quickly implement the lessons they receive and are on their toes with learning and applying the tasks smoothly,” said 1st Sgt. Keith Marceau, a mentor from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “They chose English for their communications, and it is obvious they have taken seriously everything they have been taught.”
When a nation decides to receive mentorship so they may serve on Peacekeeping missions under NATO, that nation must choose to either use English or French as their language for communications with other multinationals. This ensures all nations are effectively able to communicate with one another with minimum delay.
Now that communications have been established within the Kazakhstani military, the interoperability comes with great ease between the Kazakhstani military leaders and leaders of other nations.
“Theater security co-op events are imperative to build partner capacity, and we have been able to effectively communicate with one another in order to make this happen,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Stephan Frennier, Third Army/U.S. Army Central. “It comes down to being able to support one another as a joint team. The more we work together, the less likely someone will want to start a conflict; it will deter that behavior and form stronger partnerships and allies.”
One thing the Kazakhstani military is currently working on is sustaining a more stable noncommissioned officer core. It has been more customary for the Kazakhstani military to have only officers in leadership positions.
“I’m always looking for indicators of discipline and one of the things I’ve seen is their Soldiers are never out of uniform on a mission, you see their leaders in charge, and it’s great to see them give their noncommissioned officer core more authority,” Frennier said.
Throughout the exercise, mentors remarked on how advanced the Kazakhstanis have become with military logistics and leadership. But, while the Kazakhstanis are learning and hoping to be able to carry out peacekeeping missions, the exercise has always been a two-way road of sharing different ideas and experiences.
“It’s a win-win and it’s a great opportunity for our Soldiers and leaders to come here and work with the Kazakhstani army and other nations. They don’t just learn from us, we learn from them too,” Frennier said. “I commend all our mentors for the hard work put in with our partners to help get them ready for future peacekeeping missions.”