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Cooperative Guard

Exercise "Cooperative Guard," set in a fictitious peace support operation scenario, brought together some 1,816 personnel from 26 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations, May 12-22, 1997. The exercise was conducted under the auspices of Headquarters Allied Forces Europe as the final event in NATO Central Region's Partnership for Peace Training program for 1996-97. HQ ARRC's Rear Support Command provided the framework for Cooperative Guard's Multinational Joint Logistics Center.

Officers from Partnership for Peace nations such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania were integrated into the MLJC, working alongside their HQ ARRC counterparts. Though the event was a command post exercise, in which a headquarters staff trains without moving actual troops on the ground, the challenges it posed were very real, according to participants.

This exercise replicated 100,000 troops on the ground in an operation. Moving and coordinating 100,000 people is not easy. That movement and coordination took place amid less-than-ideal conditions. Land-mine incidents, fires, overflowing refugee camps, corrupt and uncooperative local-government officials, and a host of natural disasters were constantly thrown into the scenario, often simultaneously.

The exercise took place on the fictitious island of "Gem," (using actual topography drawn into notional countries and fictitious political borders). The scenario also included the former belligerent nations "Topaz" and "Coral." "Zircon," a monarchy, remains neutral. "Opal," which had established relations with NATO, provides host-nation support during the deployment of peacekeeping troops.

Exercise COOPERATIVE GUARD 99 (COG 99), conducted 28 May - 4 June 1999 in Vyskov, Czech Republic, was an exercise in which Partner nations worked alongside NATO personnel. Cooperative Guard 99 was a command and control exercise, and the props were hundreds of computers, manned by 2,000 men and women from 29 NATO and Partnership for Peace countries. Cooperative Guard was not related to any real-world conflict. In particular, and this was repeated like a mantra as the day unfolded, it was not related to the current situation in Kosovo or any future NATO operation in the Balkans.

The scenario of Cooperative Guard was as follows. Two imaginary countries, Coral and Topaz, had just signed a peace deal following four months of war. Using real NATO structures, equipment and personnel, Cooperative Guard simulated the nerve centre of a peacekeeping operation to police a disputed border area and to protect refugees from a Topazian enclave in Coral.

While NATO officials denied the exercise had anything to do with the crisis in the Balkans, Kosovo was never far away. A flurry of excitement met reports that Belgrade had finally accepted the conditions laid down by NATO and Russia. What the alliance cannot deny is that Cooperative Guard will have served as valuable practice for NATO when the multinational peace-keeping force is finally allowed in.

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