Multi-national exercise: Influencing through joint cooperation

Article / March 27, 2018 / Project number: 18-03-27-iatf

By Sergeant Frédéric Couturier and Master Corporal Nichole Zapadka

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Nienburg, Germany — Working with soldiers from 23 other NATO countries, a group of Canadian Army soldiers from the 5th Canadian Division Influence Activities Task Force (IATF) participated in Exercise JOINT COOPERATION 17, in Nienburg, Germany in the fall of 2017 to enhance expertise and compare best practices in civil-military relations. 

Held at the German Army’s Zentrum Zivil-Militarische, Exercise JOINT COOPERATION 17 was set in the fictitious country of “Framland.” According to the exercise scenario, Framland suffered an earthquake, which destroyed key infrastructure and led to the mass movement of displaced persons, refugees, and evacuees, while contributing to country-wide instability. Complicating the situation further, a militia group, known as the Skolkan Eagles – with suspected backing from Torrike, a competing country to the west – aimed to resurrect a once- great empire through increased presence and actions in the region.

With such a huge impact on the civil environment, a NATO-led Joint Task Force was deployed to provide deterrence and ensure Framland’s national and political integrity, as well as a safe and secure environment required for upcoming elections. This robust scenario, along with multi-national participation, is what made this exercise one of “Joint Cooperation.” Participating countries provided members to fill a variety of roles – from exercise control, to real-life support, to the primary training audience.

Staged out of Clausewitz Barracks, in the town of Nienburg, the entire exercise stretched across multiple municipalities – each with their own persons and areas of interest affecting the evolving scenario.

The exercise was distinctive in that it included both military and civil actors – each with their own individual training standards to be met – and combined the two in a dynamic storyline. This generated an excellent atmosphere that allowed for multi-national networking among all member countries. Overall, the exercise established an irreplaceable opportunity for Allied country members to develop working relationships for future operations.

In one very poignant example, members of the Canadian contingent worked closely with colleagues from Latvia, while Operation REASSURANCE continued to develop in the real world. Given that the international Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) community is not particularly large, the positive relationships developed will have a significant impact on future multi-national operations where this capability will be employed.

Though the exercise was run with NATO doctrine at its core, some countries occasionally reverted to their native CIMIC tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) during the conduct of missions. This allowed Canadian personnel the opportunity to unofficially compare TTPs and insight as to where Canadian CIMIC practices can best fit with those of Allied nations.

Cross-trained in CIMIC and psychological operations (PSYOPS), Canadian personnel were well-placed for success – sharing and comparing their professional knowledge across the Influence Activities (IA) spectrum in a mutually supportive fashion. Exercise JOINT COOPERATION 17 confirmed the value of integrating both disciplines in our IA personnel, while reaffirmed the positive image of the Canada Armed Forces and its CIMIC capability – both at home and abroad.

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