VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, Republic of Georgia — U.S. Marines, standing alongside Georgian soldiers, officially kicked-off Exercise Agile Spirit 2011, a two-week combined forces counterinsurgency and peacekeeping operations training exercise on the historic base of Vaziani, a former Russian airfield outside of Tblisi on July 18.
The exercise will include over 350 reservist Marines from Black Sea Rotational Force 11 based in Constanta, Romania, Anti-Terrorism Battalion, Bessemer, Ala., and 4th Light-Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif., working with the Georgian 4th Infantry Brigade.
“This is the first time the Georgian military will host this kind of event and I hope for a safe and successful exercise,” said Georgian Col. Zurab Tomauri, commanding officer for Georgian forces for Agile Spirit.
“The purpose of this exercise is to develop counterinsurgency skills and improve interoperability with U.S. Marines,” said Tomauri.
The training consists of the exchange and advising of: small-unit tactics, convoy operations, live-fire weapon ranges, non-lethal weapons employment, and counter-Improvised Explosive Devices training with U.S. Marines and their Georgian partners.
“There are very few places in the future we will go where we are not part of a coalition or a partnership of participants,” said Maj. Gen. Darrel L. Moore, commander, Marine Forces Reserve, “so the more frequently we have to work with another nation’s military the better we become.”
Agile Spirit plays an important role in Overseas Contingency Operations. It is scheduled to become an annual exercise to supplement the existing Georgia Deployment Program, another training evolution that trains Georgian armed forces to deploy to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force.
“Many people talk about ‘partnerships,’ but for warriors, these words have a deeper meaning,” said Lt. Col. Nelson S. Cardella, commanding officer, BSRF-11.
“It means training together, deploying together, fighting together and sacrificing together,” added the Waxhaw, N.C., native.
“This training is about more than interoperability. It’s about trust; being able to look at another soldier and know that they will be by you in the fight.”
Black Sea Rotational Force 11 is a rotational deployment of Marines to the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions to work with partner and allied nations to help build their military capacity, promote stability throughout the region, and build enduring partnerships with 13 nations throughout Eastern Europe.
In addition to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, the Marines from numerous reserve Home Training Centers across the nation will be conducting their annual training in Georgia to supplement BSRF-11.
“We certainly want to expose as many of our reserve Marines to the opportunities that BSRF-11 has been experiencing while on this deployment,” said Moore.
“Reservists bring unique skills,” added the Pryor, Ok., native. “It’s the richness and depth of civilian life that set them apart from their active-duty brethren, who have some of those experiences as well, but not a lot of them are sergeants and small-business owners or a rifleman and a school teacher. It makes them an important force multiplier.”
The training is slated to continue throughout next week. At the conclusion of the exercise, reserve Marines will retrograde back to their home units from all across the U.S. and Marines from BSRF-11 will return back to Mihail Kogalniceanu, Romania, to continue their rotational deployment until September.