Georgia Train and Equip Program (GTEP)
Georgia lies at the heart of the Silk Road, the ancient crossroads of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Located on the Black Sea, the country shares land borders with Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Regaining independence in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union it was viewed as an important new nation with aspirations of becoming an international business and industrial transit hub. Unemployment was high, but Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze had a vision for his country: to make it a conduit for trade and one of the most important transit countries in the world. Major road, railway, and pipeline routes between Asia and Europe crossed its borders. A new pipeline was planned from the oil-rich Caspian Sea basin through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea. Georgia needed modernization before it can become a conduit for trade. In addition, tensions also persisted between Georgia and Russia after regaining its independence and there were Russian accusations that the republic harbored Chechen rebels on their mountain border.
On 29 April 2002, the Department of Defense announced the beginning of the Georgia Train and Equip Program (GTEP). This Program implemented President George W. Bush's decision to respond to Government of Georgia's request for assistance to enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities and address the situation in the Pankisi Gorge. This effort was to complement other counter-terrorism efforts around the globe and increase stability in the Caucasus. The 20-month, $64-million plan, involving a maximum of 150 US soldiers, was expected to be duplicated in 20 other countries.
A flexible, time-phased training initiative, GTEP built upon the strong military-to-military relationship developed between the 2 countries since the end of the Cold War, and further underscores US support for Georgia's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Under the Georgia Border Security and Law Enforcement (GBSLE) program, the US had already provided the Georgian Border Guard, Customs, Ministry of Defense, and other border security and law enforcement agencies with communications equipment, vehicles and helicopters with spares/repair parts for transport and patrol, surveillance and detection equipment, computers for automation of applications, licensing and regulatory systems, and forensics laboratory assistance. In mid-2002, the US Army Corps of Engineers' Europe District helped the Georgian State Frontier Defense Department celebrate its 10th anniversary in grand style. The opening of a renovated aviation maintenance facility on the Alekseevsk Air Base tarmac, beside the Tbilisi commercial airport, marked a significant improvement for the upkeep of the Georgian Border Guard's Mi-8 and Mi-2 helicopters. The $3.2 million renovation of the hangar and an accompanying warehouse were 2 initial projects completed in 2002 under the Georgia Border Security and Law Enforcement assistance program funded by the US government, and coordinated by the US Customs Service. The facility supported maintenance of aviation assets of the Georgian border guard and its rapid reaction group based in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital.
Selected members of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) conducted the GTEP. A SOCEUR site survey team of approximately 20 people departed for Georgia on 29 April 2002 to coordinate GTEP logistical requirements. Included in the team were logistics, contracting, and communications personnel. Once the groundwork was accomplished, the main body of instructors would arrive, and the initial program of instruction would begin shortly thereafter.
The initial program consisted of command center staff training for members of the Georgian Ministry of Defense, as well as staff training for units of the Land Forces Command. Border Guards and other Georgian security agencies would be included to ensure interoperability among Georgia's security forces. The Program's goal was to build strong and effective staff organizations capable of creating and sustaining standardized operating procedures, training plans, operational plans, and a property accounting system. The curriculum would consist of performance-oriented training and practical exercises similar to those taught at the National Defense University, Joint Forces Command, and US Army War College. Staff training was designed to last approximately 70 days and would be conducted in a small group, classroom setting.
In addition to staff training, tactical training was provided sequentially and consisted of approximately 100 days per unit. The goal of the tactical program was to instruct Georgian battalions in light infantry tactics, to include platoon-level offensive and defensive operations and basic airmobile tactics. The curriculum for the tactics training included basic individual skills, such as combat lifesaver, radio operator procedures, land navigation, and human rights education. It also included individual combat skills, such as rifle marksmanship, individual movement techniques, and squad and platoon tactics. Also, during GTEP, military equipment was slated for transfer to Georgia. Equipment included uniform items, small arms and ammunition, communications gear, training gear, medical gear, fuel, and construction materiel.
This was followed by unit level tactical training for the Georgian commando battalion, which concluded with a graduation ceremony on 15 December. During these initial 9 months, SOCEUR had oversight of the arrival of individual soldier and unit-level equipment, established property accountability procedures, and upgraded selected Georgian facilities to include the renovation of 3 GTEP classrooms and 2 troop barracks.
After 9-months, on or about 15 December 2002, the Operation Enduring Freedom mission in the former-Soviet republic of Georgia transitioned from the responsibility of US Army Special Forces personnel and SOCEUR to the US Marine Corps. Although the leadership and trainers changed, the end result was that the GTEP mission remained the same: enhancing the capability of selected Georgian military units to provide stability and security to the citizens of Georgia and the Caucasus region.
Marines, under the operational control of US Marine Forces Europe (MARFOREUR), provided training for selected units, to include, a light infantry battalion and a mechanized company team. They also had oversight for the remaining equipment and facilities upgrades. The first phase of GTEP conducted by marine elements began in early February 2003.
As a result of the GTEP, the Georgian military significantly increased its capability to execute combined operations in a multi-nation environment, enhanced their ability to protect their sovereignty, improved their ability to defeat transnational terrorists' cells, and stabilize the region from potential terrorist activities. A remarkable aspect to this program was the impact that could be achieved at the small unit level. During the course of the GTEP approximately 2,600 Georgian soldiers, including a headquarters staff element and 5 tactical units, received training.
GTEP came to an end in April 2004, formally closing out its operations in Georgia in May 2004. US European Command subsequently replaced GTEP with the Georgian Sustainment and Stability Operations Program (GSSOP), which sought to train and equip Georgian forces and command staff to prepare for peace support operations in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This new mission built on GTEP training conducted by SOCEUR and MARFOREUR. One benefit of GTEP came on 1 March 2005, when Georgia deployed the first full infantry battalion in support of operations in Iraq. Georgian troops also supported operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. EUCOM expected the rotation of Georgian forces in support of this critical mission to continue under the Sustainment and Stability Operations Program.
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