The EPRC inherited the CJPRSC from the European Air Group, the organisation it was established from. Following is a short historical review of its inception and development.
From 2002 to 2006, the EAG conducted VOLCANEX Exercises with a heavy focus on CSAR. These exercises provided not only valuable training for the participating forces but, also threw up a variety of lessons learned. Through these, it became obvious that whilst Force Integration Training (FIT) was extremely valuable, some other form of training was required to fulfil the need for individual training. In 2006, a requirement to develop a Combined Joint Combat Search and Rescue Standardisation Course (CJCSARSC) was formulated and included into the EAG’s JPR project. Initial consultations with the Tactical Leadership Training (TLP) facilities in Belgium commenced shortly thereafter.
As no other training opportunity of this kind was available in Europe, the EAG developed the CJCSARSC on the basis of the previous VOLCANEX exercises and their respective lessons learned.
The aim of the course was to enhance the knowledge and proficiency required to plan and execute CSAR missions in a non-permissive, international environment as an element of a COMAO. To accomplish this the course included a 2 ½ day academic phase, 3 day and 3 night missions.
The academic phase was intended to ensure a minimum level of common understanding between all participants to allow for safe and efficient conduct of the missions. In addition, capability briefings by all participating assets and a dry run planning exercise were added to prepare the participants for the missions. The lectures were structured in a way that allowed the attendees to comprehend the way NATO foresees the initialisation, command & control issues and the overall conduct of a CSAR mission. After the first iteration of the course, it became obvious that the academic phase was comprehensive but, the time allotted was insufficient. After the evaluation of the course critiques, some other changes led to the current academic phase which entails 4 days of theoretical instruction, but also includes self study periods, a demonstration of mission briefings and a period to develop a Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) for the flying phase.
The main source of information for the CJCSARSC was the NATO Personnel Recovery (PR) documentation. Throughout the years these changed regularly and that provided quite a challenge to the organisers.
The flying phase was planned for 6 missions with one or two CSAR Task Forces (TF). It is obvious that the composition of the TF will be governed by the availability of assets during the course. However, to allow for a realistic mission profile it is imperative to ensure the availability of a robust TF with all required components. The minimum available capabilities must include Recovery Vehicles, Fixed Wing Escort, Rotary Wing Escort and a C2 platform. Regrettably, due to the timing of the course and Belgian restrictions on night flying, there was no opportunity to schedule night missions in 2007. As a result, 6 day missions were conducted. During the 2008 iteration, two of the six missions were conducted at night. The mission profiles were tailored to provide a suitable learning curve. A wide variety of PR- scenarios were utilised. This included the recovery of large numbers of isolated personnel with a robust TF.
To spread the training opportunities as far as possible, the Rescue Mission Commander (RMC) was changed with every mission. While this is not strictly in accordance with NATO procedures, it allowed for all participating assets to plan, brief and lead a mission. In 2008, the available number of assets allowed for a 2nd TF to be formed. This provided good additional training in multinational environments and enhanced the training outcome since different approaches to the same tactical scenario were utilised. However, the resulting prolonged working day and longer debriefings caused some disturbance, since crew rest periods had to be taken into consideration. The last two missions in 2008 were conducted at night. During preparation for the course, these missions were considered to be extremely important, since CSAR missions will normally be conducted in the dark. In hindsight however, this is a multifacetted problem with no easy solution. The experiences from the 2008 iteration showed that for flight safety reasons the tactical difficulty of a scenario at night has to be decreased significantly to allow for safe mission conduct. The resulting loss in training output has to be offset by the training value of night OPS. In a course with only 6 missions this is a challenge. Should a bad weather day cause the cancellation of a day mission, the achievement of the course aims may be jeopardised.
In summary, the CJCSARSC was a robust and comprehensive programme. The allotment of 6 sorties is a good compromise between deployment time and training output. Care has to be taken to make a robust TF available for the missions, since without the minimum force elements the resulting training will always become limited.
Later on, the need for this course became more pronounced. However, the naming of it lead to misunderstandings and distracted from its aims. CSAR is a narrow subset of PR and many see it as a legacy capability from times passed. To avoid such problems, future iterations of the course were named ‘Combined Joint Personnel Recovery Standardisation Course’. This only reflected current NATO policy but, also widen the scenarios that can be used during the training.
In the years 2009 to 2015 the CJPRSC was conducted annually in locations across Europe (see below) and provided training to over 2500 PR operatives. Through it, a training gap for all European nations was closed.
The next edition of the CJPRSC will be held in Lechfeld AFB, Germany in the period September to October 2016.