APRIL 24, 2017, CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Approximately 50 U.S. and U.K. Soldiers and more than 500 Kazakhstani Soldiers participated in Koktem, phase one of Exercise Steppe Eagle 17, which took place March 31 to April 11, 2017, at Illisky Training Center, Kazakhstan.
A cold wind blew past as medics rushed across an open field to their patients. Radio operators followed close on their heels to call in the medical evacuation requests. Their patients were actually exercise role players that held casualty cards describing their injuries.
Medical and communication operations are two of 19 tasks covered during Koktem, phase one of Exercise Steppe Eagle, which took place March 31 to April 11, 2017, at Illisky Training Center, Kazakhstan.
Koktem, meaning “spring” in Kazakh, is a series of military-to-military engagements involving U.S., U.K. and Kazakhstani soldiers that occur simultaneously and support the themes of Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 later in the year.
The military-to-military engagements also included public order, military planning, troop leading procedures, engineer tasks, water purification, media engagement, entry control points, convoys, patrols, civil-military coordination, rules of engagement, and fire support.
Approximately 50 U.S. and U.K. Soldiers and more than 500 Kazakhstani Soldiers participated in Koktem. Participating U.S. Army Soldiers came from around the world and included units from U.S. Army Central, the Kentucky Army National Guard and the Arizona Army National Guard.
The state of Arizona has had an enduring partnership program with Kazakhstan since 1993, and they were well represented at this year’s first phase of Exercise Steppe Eagle.
The British Army’s 1st Battalion, The Rifles, 160 Brigade, also had a strong representation and participated in many of the military police functions, such as entry control points and convoy operations.
During Koktem, the commander of 160 Brigade, Brig. Gen. Alan Richmond, visited the training center to view the progress of this year’s military-to-military engagements.
“We take the lead for the United Kingdom in terms of military-to-military relations and development here in Central Asia,” said Richmond. “We as a brigade are very proud to be working alongside our American friends and allies to support Exercise Steppe Eagle and (build) our relationship with Kazakhstan. And the development of (Kazakhstan’s) capability, the peacekeeping capability, is very important.”
Soldiers from all three militaries spent the first week of Koktem running through the academics of each task covered for peacekeeping and peace support operations. The academics week was followed by a three-day field training exercise that combined all of the tasks.
On the final day of the exchange, the Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Brigade hosted an after action review that pulled together lessons learned from the U.S., U.K. and Kazakhstan participants.
“This was a successful two weeks that will add to the exercise in July,” said Lt. Col. Kent Cavallini from the Kentucky National Guard, adding that he saw, great spirit and great teamwork from all participants.
Exercise Steppe Eagle 17 will take place in Kazakhstan this summer, and will focus on multinational peacekeeping and peace support operations. Exercises like Steppe Eagle 17 promote mutual understanding and interoperability between partner nations, and provide an opportunity to build relationships and exchange ideas.
By Capt. Desiree Dillehay