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Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program (GSSOP)

Starting in 2005, US European Command (EUCOM) conducted a program to train and equip Georgian forces and command staff to prepare for peace support operations in Iraq. The new mission built on the Georgia Train and Equip (GTEP) training conducted by Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) and Marine Forces Europe (MARFOREUR) between May 2002 and April 2004. The new program involved sustaining the GTEP trained troops by training and equipping their parent unit, the 11th Brigade staff and equipping 2 additional Georgian infantry battalions, 2 logistics battalions, training some separate companies from the Georgian 11th Brigade, and some command and control elements that plan, coordinate and execute Georgian deployments to Iraq.

Called the Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program (GSSOP), the program was a security assistance program designed to create an increased capability in the Georgian military to support Operation Iraqi Freedom stability missions. GSSOP was also to help solidify the progress made during the GTEP and continue to assist in the implementation of western standards in the Georgian armed forces. The initial phase of the GSSOP program, GSSOP-I, lasting about 18 months, was to cost approximately $60 million. Funding for the Program was provided under FY05 and FY06: $27.1 million in Title 10 funds, $17.33 million in Title 22 funds, and $16.5 million in other funds (i.e. Excess Defense Articles, Donor Nation Program).

GSSOP was designed initially to train 2 infantry battalions for peacekeeping missions in Iraq; 2 logistics battalions; specialized units for the Georgian 1st Brigade; and staff training for the 1st and 2nd Georgian Brigade, the Land Forces Command Staff, and the Operations Cell of the Georgian General Staff. Additionally, GSSOP would provide Georgia with a cadre of trainers and staff to support additional personnel and peacekeeping units.

In January 2005, GSSOP-I commenced as US European Command (EUCOM) conducted a Pre-Deployment Site Survey and assessment of the Georgian Army, focusing on the readiness of the infrastructure and the personnel manning of the first battalion to undergo training. On 1 March 2005, a Georgian battalion, which had been trained under GTEP, deployed to Iraq, a prerequisite for commencement of follow-on GSSOP phases. Based on the readiness of the Georgians to conduct the training and availability of funding and equipment, EUCOM set a start date of mid-April 2005 to begin the training of the first infantry battalion.

EUCOM estimated in early 2005 that the Program would be completed by summer 2006. EUCOM, in coordination with the Defense Department and the Department of State, planned to continue its military transformation support to this developing democracy. This effort was an example of a program in which a small investment could yield enormous dividends in the effort to promote peace, stability and democracy. It was also an example of how small unit training programs, operating at the tactical level, could produce a strategic result. With GSSOP, the US and Georgia, sworn enemies during the Cold War when the Republic of Georgia was part of the former Soviet Union, were brothers in arms. They were forming friendships and training side by side. Gone were the Cold War days of mistrust and suspicion, replaced by feelings of cooperation and mutual respect, as US forces worked to prepare their Georgian counterparts for operations in Iraq and boost regional security in the Caucasus.

Georgians were accustomed to Soviet-style training, a very centralized type of organization where commissioned officers gave very little leadership responsibility to enlisted members. The US style was very different. The officers did not necessarily want to give up their responsibility and step aside and let the noncommissioned officers take care of the small items while the officers took care of the planning. The Soviet style of "spray and pray" in which weapons were fired in automatic mode even at longer range, often from the hip, gave way to the more controlled and precise, shorter range US style of firing. The heritage remained in part, however, and to support GSSOP, several former Warsaw Pact nations, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Romania, contributed weapons and ammunition to the Program.

MARFOREUR led the training and provided the largest US contingent of trainers. No more than 70 US service members from all military branches were to deploy to Georgia at any given time. The Krtsanisi National Training Center was the site of the Program, which would train and equip more than 1,200 Georgian soldiers in ground combat skills and tactics, including marksmanship, first aid, urban drills and search techniques. Other phases include training the reconnaissance, engineer, and signal companies, as well as training and equipping the military staffs and logistics battalions of both brigades.

Participation in GSSOP was part of the Georgian Army's 23rd Light Infantry Battalion and other Georgian units' preparation for deployment to Iraq in support of the global war on terrorism and Iraqi stability. The training was conducted by Marine Corps infantry and small arms trainers, a Navy emergency medical training team, Air Force communications technicians, and Army contracting and visual communications experts. On 23 April 2005, a Navy medical staff sprang into action during an emergency evacuation exercise drill for the Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program. The drill involved 3 "injured" troops at the grenade range. The purpose of the drill was to test and evaluate the unit's ability to evacuate casualties by either helicopter or by ambulance to the Tbilisi Airport.

In May 2005, shortly after arriving in Georgia, the GSSOP Logistics Section quickly went to work. Supported by civilian contractors, the section consisted of only 2 Marines who were responsible for equipping over 500 Georgian soldiers. These Logistics Marines helped equip the Georgian 23rd Light Infantry Battalion. Some of the first things to be issued were boots, canteens, and desert combat uniforms, which would prove useful when the unit deployed to replace Georgian units already serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Future supply issues would give the Georgians new flak jackets, sleeping bags and other gear they need for their upcoming deployment to Iraq in support of coalition stability efforts.

MARFOREUR showcased EUCOM's GSSOP Task Force training program in a "capstone" event between 5 and 10 December 2005 in the Republic of Georgia. The event aimed to prove the readiness of Georgia's 22nd Light Infantry Battalion prior to its deployment to Iraq. The trained 22nd Light Infantry Battalion troops would form part of the dedicated force called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1546 to protect UN peacekeeping forces in Iraq.

In February 2006, the 53-member GSSOP task force, consisting mainly of veterans from conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, trained the Georgian Soldiers to form part of the dedicated force called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1546 to protect UN peacekeeping forces in Iraq. EUCOM's GSSOP assisted the Georgian armed forces sustain those ongoing deployments.

The 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC) assumed responsibility for GSSOP from the US Marine Corps in mid-2006, and subsequently oversaw the classes being taught by US defense contractors. JMTC soldiers training the Georgians had plenty of experience in preparing troops for combat. They routinely prepared US and other countries' forces for combat and peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other global trouble spots. At JMTC's training platforms in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, Soldiers take advantage of force-on-force capabilities, as well as the multipurpose range complex located on the largest training area outside of the continental United States.

JMTC was able to export its training to any training area and create a fully instrumented force-on-force training experience. For example, the JMTC traveled to the Republic of Georgia to help prepare its 31st Light Infantry Battalion for its upcoming deployment to Iraq. An important tool used to train the Georgian Soldiers is the Modified Combined Obstacle Overlay, which was an intelligence preparation product. Modified Combined Obstacle Overlay applied the battle space in regards to an area of operation. GSSOP trained select Georgian military units to continue scheduled deployments to support UN peacekeepers in Iraq. The program also included light infantry tactics; brigade-level engineer, logistics, reconnaissance and signal skills; and command and control training at the brigade level and above.

The GSSOP evolved into a 5-phase initiative that on average consisted of approximately 70 US service members training battalions of about 600 Georgian soldiers. Phase I had kicked off GSSOP with the EUCOM pre-deployment site survey team visit to Georgia to ensure Georgian forces and facilities were ready for the program in January 2005. Phase II, the training of the Georgian 2nd Infantry Brigade, which was two thirds complete by November 2005, was expected to end with the graduation of the 22nd Light Infantry Battalion. Phase III would train the reconnaissance, engineer, and signal companies of the 1st Brigade. Phase IV had been designed to train and equip the military staffs and the logistics battalions of the 1st and 2nd Brigades. Phase V, the final phase, would train the general staff command and control elements, Operational Headquarters Staff, and the 1st and 2nd Brigade staffs. The various training phases would take place in classroom and field environments at different locations in Georgia. The GSSOP was scheduled to last 15 months.




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