Witnessing the transformation of our allies on NATO’s eastern flank
By Captain Pete Little
From September 16, 2017 to March 28, 2018 I had the opportunity to participate in 1 Canadian Division’s reciprocal officer exchange programme with Multinational Division-South East (MND-SE) in Bucharest, Romania, enabling me to witness our eastern allies’ transformation, casting off the legacy of communism and embracing the future.
Anyone who has worked with Post-Warsaw Pact armies understands the challenges posed by decades of centralized and rigid command structure. While this legacy remains apparent on NATO’s eastern flank, there are exciting changes.
For myself, the exchange programme was an excellent opportunity not only to work with allies but also develop my understanding of division-level manoeuvre. I arrived for the Crisis Response Planning (CRP) phase of Exercise DACIAN LANCER, MND-SE’s combat readiness evaluation for full operational capability. I guided the plans cell through mission analysis, and provided technical assistance both for MND-SE and the subordinate Brigades. For the exercise itself in March, I ran flanking control, and even performed the role of Commander 2 Romanian Infantry Division.
It was working with young officers and NCOs, and inspiring them to take the initiative to demonstrate their skills to the fullest, that was the most memorable part of my time at MND-SE. My first opportunity for this was during CRP when a young Air Defence officer was working through analysis for his division, and found gaps in his coverage. We discussed capabilities, and he soon deduced that he should task the brigades to cover off gaps.
Facilitated by a Canadian lieutenant-colonel, the handful of junior officers and NCOs worked through mission and factors analysis to develop suitable courses of action for a counter-offensive. Although this may seem standard for Canadians, it is quite an experience for those trained in a centralized command concept with a culture of strict adherence to higher direction and aversion to initiative.
A logistics lieutenant shone as he made a number of important deductions based on terrain conditions. A lieutenant was responsible for overseeing the communication plan, and a pair of lieutenants were also instrumental in developing the scripting and injects for the exercise.
Through the exercise, another junior fires officer began seizing the initiative to re-task assets to engage targets of opportunity, and making insightful recommendations to her colleagues to improve coordination. Most exciting though was the lieutenant who conducted link analysis of injects to develop an immersive backstory for the Commander’s key leader engagement, and enhanced training for the Human Intelligence Cell.
This transformation was an inspiration to witness, and will strengthen our allies on NATO’s eastern flank.