Blue Shield International (BSI) was invited to support the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) at two events held at the Land Warfare Centre (LWC) in February and March 2022.
The events sit within NATO’s wider commitment to human security and the Protection of Civilians (PoC). PoC includes all efforts taken to avoid, minimise and mitigate potential negative effects from NATO military operations on the civilian population, including the establishment of a safe and secure environment. PoC not only includes persons, but all civilian objects, especially those of high importance to the population such as items of religious and cultural heritage. The PoC Framework outlined by NATO emphasises the importance of Understanding the Human Environment (UHE) through an approach which focuses on the population’s perception of their environment and potential threats. NATO is aware that consideration for PoC is key for mission success and legitimacy.
BSI was invited to attend the URBAN LION TTX event held on 7th to 11th February 2022. This five day tabletop exercise was led by Engineering and Civil Military Support (ECMI) in the ARRC but with cross-branch attendance across the ARRC. A number of other NGOs and IOs were also in attendance, such as CIVIC, PAX and War Child. The goal of the event was to start the preparation for a Commanders Handbook on Urban Warfighting and dilemmas faced, and to highlight current and future issues in addition to capability shortfalls. The exercise was based around a fictional scenario where the forces have taken a key city. The ARRC explored four ‘snapshots’ of the mission to recapture the city by identifying the key issues and potential constraints on the mission’s success. Particular attention was given to human security across all phases of the exercise.
BSI highlighted the breadth of cultural property in the scenario, the importance of buildings marked with the blue shield and the duties of the ARRC under international law – specifically the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999. Many NATO countries, and the majority of those in the training audience, are signatories to both.
After initial scenario briefings, the first three phases of the exercise (Urban Understand, Urban Find and Planning the Urban Fight) involved discussing key issues to be aware of in planning the mission. These ranged from the characteristics of the urban terrain and interactions with non-military actors to how the Corps understand the human environment and meet PoC requirements. Blue Shield emphasised the critical risk to moveable cultural property in the security vacuum posed by conflict when national security forces are weakest and how this is an issue to be raised with host nation armed forces as early as possible in the planning phases. Conducting the Urban Fight was the fourth phase of the exercise when the group considered the capabilities of the Corps required to operate effectively in urban terrain. The final phases of the exercise, Sustainment, Stabilisation, and Infrastructure, involved discussion of how the Corps sustain engagement in urban operations and what post-conflict activity is required.
The TTX event concluded with a consolidation session where each syndicate provided summarised and briefed the commander on the issues which arose in each phase of the exercise. Cultural property poses a number of social, political and legal constraints on the mission which the ARRC were keen to explore.
BSI was also invited to attend the ARRCADE EXPERT panel on 31st March 2022. Building on the lessons identified in STLE 21 and URBAN LION TTX, ARRCADE EXPERT aimed to enhance the ARRC’s understanding of PoC policy, with particular consideration to UHE, and develop a better understanding of what is a Commander’s Dilemma and how this may affect mission success or failure. Four panels took place over the course of the day, covering issues such as human security in fragmented battlefields, PoC in practice and what constitutes a Commander’s Dilemma.
Feedback on the event from the Commander, Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander was very positive, with Generals Borton, Copsey and Carai highlighting the value of having such expertise at the event. The Generals were also interested in planning a series of focused workshops to follow up on the challenges identified in ARRCADE EXPERT. Building on the work of URBAN LION TTX and ARRCADE EXPERT, Blue Shield will be attending a one day event, Ex LIONHEART, on 5th July 2022. Challenges and opportunities for Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) in the urban environment will be presented and discussed. The Commanders Handbook will then be produced after this event.
Blue Shield looks forward to participating in Ex LIONHEART and continuing to support the ARRC in their commitment to human security and PoC.