Exercise Noble Partner 18 Opens in Georgia
On Anniversary of Russia-Georgia War, US Army and Allies Practise Air Assault and Urban Combat
More than 3,000 participants from 13 allied and partner nations gathered at Vaziani Training Area, Georgia, August 1, for the opening ceremony of Exercise Noble Partner 18.
Noble Partner 2018 is a Georgian Armed Forces and U.S. Army Europe-led exercise, now in its fourth iteration. The exercise is intended to support and enhance readiness and cooperation between Georgian forces, participating nations, regional partners and the United States.
Countries involved in this year’s exercise include the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Norway, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Noble Partner 2018 will be conducted at Vaziani and Camp Norio training areas in Georgia, Aug. 1-15.
In attendance for the opening ceremony were Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia Irakli Kobakhidze, Minister of Defence of Georgia Levan Izoria, Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Vladimer Chachibaia, the U.S. Charge d’Affaires H.E. Elizabeth Rood and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph Lengyel.
Senior officials and leaders addressed the importance of the multinational exercise and partnership.
“Your participation in these exercises is a guarantee of stability and peace,” Margvelashvili said. “Today our unity, friendship, and common aims are to protect peace, well-being, and good health of our citizens. Your contribution to the strength of our states is colossal.”
He went on to say that the partnerships between the nations, through these exercises, will advance Georgia’s defense capabilities and ensure security in the region.
This year the exercise supports the training of the Georgian Armed Forces mechanized and special operations forces, U.S. regionally-aligned forces, and the U.S. Army and Air National Guard from the state of Georgia as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.
“This exercise [Noble Partner 18] offers an excellent opportunity for me to reaffirm the great value of Georgia and the United States’ State of Georgia National Guard’s security cooperation relationship, now almost 25 years old,” Lengyel said. “This enduring partnership, based on mutual respect and common interests, has enhanced the capacities of our respective militaries and deepened our understanding and friendships between the U.S. and Georgia.
“Our partnership has expanded to focus more on combat centric readiness as demonstrated by exercises like this,” Lengyel continued. “This exercise should lead to a better understanding of how we exercise; how we operate and how we work together toward a greater security cooperation effort.”
To demonstrate the seamless partnership between their countries, Soldiers from 2nd Cavalry Regiment and German Bundeswehr 39th Panzergrenadierbataillon exited two Georgia Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to simulate air assault operations on an notional objective.
“The U.S. is proud to be a strategic partner with Georgia and every nation present here at this exercise,” Lengyel said. “We look forward to continuing our commitment into the future.”
171st Aviation Regiment Opens Noble Partner 18 with Air Assault Exercise
The Georgia Army National Guard’s Marietta based 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment opened the U.S. Army Europe Noble Partner 18 by conducting an air assault demonstration with Soldiers from the Georgian Armed Forces and German Soldiers from the Panzergrenadierbatallion 391 and the Vilseck, Germany based Iron Company, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
“This is an amazing opportunity to deploy our unit from Georgia and work in a multinational environment,” said Lt. Col. Barry S. Simmons, commander, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment. “The opportunity to work with our partners and allies provides an amazing opportunity.”
The 1-171st will conduct air transport, air assault missions and support air medical evacuations for 13 participating countries. Improving their unit’s readiness over the course of the two-week exercise is a priority.
“This gives us the opportunity to train on our pilot skills,” said Maj. Louis L. Williams, operations officer, Headquarters, 1-171st. “and provides us the opportunity to train our logistics and maintenance procedures.”
Exercises such as Noble Partner 18 provide essential opportunities for Georgia Guardsmen to train with Georgian forces and provides for integrated, total force training under the State Partnership Program to ensure interoperability.
The U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program, under the Department of Defense security cooperation and global engagement, the National Guard has 65 partnerships around the world to promote access, enhance military capabilities, and enhance the principles of responsible governance. Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the Georgia National Guard SPP partnership with the state of Georgia.
Georgia Still in Russia’s Sights
Georgia condemned Russia’s continued “occupation” of its territory on Tuesday, August 7, a decade after the two countries went to war over the Kremlin-backed separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“This is a war against Georgia, an aggression, an occupation, and a blatant violation of international law,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili told a round table meeting attended by Georgian government officials and visiting foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine’s vice premier.
“The aggressor’s appetite has only increased after the invasion,” he said.
Georgia and its Soviet-era master Russia have long been at loggerheads over Tbilisi’s bid to join the European Union and NATO with the spiraling confrontation culminating in a five-day war in 2008.
On August 8, 2008, the Russian army swept into Georgia – bombing targets and occupying large swathes of territory – after Tbilisi launched a large-scale military operation against South Ossetian separatist forces who had been shelling Georgian villages in the region.
Over just five days, Russia defeated Georgia’s small military and the hostilities ended with a cease-fire mediated by France’s then-president Nicolas Sarkozy, who at the time held the European Union’s rotating presidency.
After the war, Moscow recognized South Ossetia and another separatist enclave, Abkhazia, as independent states where it then stationed permanent military bases.
Tbilisi and its Western partners condemned the move as an “illegal occupation of Georgian soil” and the first time a sovereign state’s borders were changed in Europe through military force since the end of World War II.
‘Failure to punish Russia’
Speaking to AFP last week, Margvelashvili said that back in 2008, the West believed Russia’s military campaign against Georgia “was an isolated move which will not be repeated against other countries”.
“And then we witnessed what Russia did in Ukraine in 2014,” he added, referring to the Kremlin’s support for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
In an interview with the Kommersant daily Monday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – who was president in 2008 – defended Moscow’s recognition of the separatist regions as “the only possible step… to maintain durable peace” and “stability in the South Caucasus.”
‘Smack in the jaw’
In an editorial published on Monday on the website of Russia’s Echo Moskvy radio station, Mikheil Saakashvili – Georgia’s president in 2004-2013 – said Russia had been preparing to invade his country years before the war broke out.
He said Georgia had no chance of winning a war against its giant northern neighbor, but gave “the aggressor a smack in the jaw” when it offered resistance and won “time until the international community woke up.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin – a prime minister during the war – said in 2012 that he approved a plan of military action against Georgia as early is in 2006 and that Russia has “trained South Ossetian militia”.
Earlier on Tuesday, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry denounced Russia’s continued military build-up in the separatist regions.
“The Russian Federation has not implemented its international obligations despite constant calls from the international community… and has further reinforced its illegal military presence on the ground,” the ministry said in a statement.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the “Russian military presence in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia continues to violate international law”.
She reiterated Europe’s “firm support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia” which she hailed as a “model of democratic stability in the region.”
Joining the chorus of international condemnation, the German Foreign Ministry called Russia’s recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia “unacceptable.”
The 2008 war claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers and civilians from both sides. The U.N. said around 120,000 people were displaced during the war, though most returned to their homes afterwards.
Up to 18,500 ethnic Georgians were forcibly displaced from South Ossetia, according to prosecutors from the International Criminal Court which in 2016 opened an investigation into war crimes committed during the conflict.
Russia and separatist authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have rejected repeated calls from the U.N. General Assembly for the “safe and dignified return to their homes.”
U.S. participation in Noble Partner 18 will include elements from the state of Georgia National Guard; 2nd Cavalry Regiment; 12th Combat Aviation Brigade; 7th Army Training Command; 21st Theater Sustainment Command; 16th Sustainment Brigade; 18th Military Police Brigade; 409th Contracting Support Brigade; 598th Transportation Brigade; and 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
Image: Georgia Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawks from the Marietta based 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment take off with U.S., German and Georgian Soldiers at the completion of an air assault exercise during Noble Partner 18 at the Vaziani Training Area, Georgia on Aug.1, 2018. Noble Partner 18 is a Georgian Armed Forces (GAF) and U.S. Army Europe cooperatively-led exercise in its fourth iteration. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. R.J. Lannom Jr