Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Rifles joined US troops to host a multinational peacekeeping exercise, Steppe Eagle, on UK soil for the first time.
Exercise Steppe Eagle began on July 13 and ends this weekend and aimed to train Kazakhstani forces for future UN peacekeeping missions.
More than 800 troops, including 300 from 1 Rifles, took to Stanford Training Area (STANTA) in Norfolk to conduct the training, which focused on all aspects of peacekeeping operations, ranging from weapon training, establishing base security, carrying out foot patrols and managing displaced civilians.
The annual UK-US led exercise has been held since 2003 and this is the first time in its 13-year history it has been held in the UK.
Brigadier Martyn Gamble, Commander 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales, of which 1 Rifles comes under operational command, said:
“Exercise Steppe Eagle is the cornerstone of UK-Kazakhstan defence engagement and it was great to welcome Kazakhstan and other Central Asian Republics to the UK to take part in this. It also demonstrates our commitment to peacekeeping and the training of international peacekeepers.”
Soldiers from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan also took part with 275 Kazakhstani troops and 198 from the US.
As Kazakhstan bids for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2017 the exercise helped to prepare the Kazakhstan Peacekeeping Battalion (KAZBAT) for future missions by teaching peacekeeping techniques and sharing knowledge.
Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mike Penning, said:
“The UK’s participation in exercises such as Steppe Eagle shows our clear and marked commitment to international peace and security. By training troops from Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, we are bolstering their peacekeeping abilities and supporting them as they make significant progress towards becoming a part of the UN’s peace keeping operations – a key milestones in the development of a truly independent and influential Kazakhstan.”
Ambassador of Kazakhstan, Erzhan Kazykhanov, was part of a delegation of special guests who were given a first-hand view of the troops in action during a riot scenario in the Eastmere Village of STANTA. He said:
“This was a great opportunity and the soldiers have learned so much from this. It was a mutually beneficial experience in peacekeeping techniques and conflict resolution at a time when this kind of training is vital in preserving peace and security around the world.”
Exercise Steppe Eagle takes place ahead of the London Peacekeeping Ministerial on the 8th September, which Kazakhstan also plans to attend, continuing to undertake greater responsibilities on the world stage.