In February 2019, the British Army was asked to send six observers to Exercise Kiş, a Turkish Brigade Live Fire Exercise, set near the Turkish garrison town of Kars in Eastern Turkey. This was part of an eclectic mix of nationalities from countries as diverse as: Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The British Army was represented by five Army Reserve Officers and one Regular Officer; the five Reserve Officers were from 4 Para, the HAC, the REME, and two from 165 Port and Maritime Regiment, 264 Squadron and 710 (Operational Hygiene) Squadron.
Kars is set in beautiful mountainous terrain in the far east of Turkey and is a town known for its honey, cheese and carpets as well as a magnificent castle. The British Observers were accommodated in the Turkish Army’s Officers’ Club in Kars, which was built in 1788, and had walls 3-feet thick.
At the Exercise Headquarters the International Observers were briefed on the Brigade-size exercise which was overseen by a Divisional Headquarters. The exercise included Air Assets and had Observers from 16 Nations.
As part of the exercise we visited a display provided by a Turkish Commando unit which included a comprehensive equipment display and the opportunity to view the shelters used by the Turkish Commandos including snow holes and igloos. In addition to their military role the Turkish Commandos also undertake mountain search and rescue. The Commandos demonstrated their capabilities, they flew in by Puma helicopter, attacking and destroying enemy held buildings; blowing up a bridge and then undertook a search and rescue mission.
We found the Turkish soldiers to be friendly and very keen to show off their military prowess. They were well equipped, and it was clear that they were very used to operating in the local conditions which included daytime temperatures down to minus 14 degrees. Extensive use was made of white paint for vehicles and white camouflage clothing and white camouflage nets.
The final big exercise was a combined-arms live-fire exercise with targets being hit by F16s, Artillery, Attack Helicopters, M 48 Tanks, APCs, RPGs and snipers. Half way through the demonstration a Chinook flew in more artillery, a C-17 dropped resupplies, and then paratroopers each with a flag of a participating nation closed the exercise. Overall, a very impressive display and something we were very lucky to witness.