Royal Marine shares Arctic expertise in Serbia

A Royal Marines expert in cold weather and mountain warfare has shared valuable expertise with troops in Serbia on a unique mission.

Colour Sergeant James Keenan is part of the specialist Royal Marines Mountain Leaders Cadre and led a small group from the UK to teach officers from the Serbian Military Academy. 

Mountain Leaders are UK defence’s specialists in Arctic and mountain warfare and are experts in amphibious operations, cliff assaults and reconnaissance. 

Their secondary role is to train others in their unique skill set, which is why instructor CSgt Keenan headed for Serbia on a ten-day training mission joined by Army Instructors Captain Joel Turner and Sergeant Thomas Mawle of 6th Division.

They shared winter warfare experiences and safety training, including avalanche awareness and crevasse rescue in the mountains around Kopaonik, a four-hour drive south of the capital Belgrade.

CSgt Keenan said: “The Serbians responded very well to our methods and were very interested to learn new tactics. They learnt how to ski off piste and through forests, how to ascend steep terrain with ski skins carrying weapons and equipment, in addition to learning about how the cold effects tactical considerations and how we counter this.

“Working closely with the Army and Royal Marines is fantastic as it shows how two services can come together and identify lessons and solutions to deliver training of the highest level.”

Major General Bojan Zrnic, Commandant of the Military Academy, said: “Our goal is to improve the curriculum related to winter warfare training, so students can receive top training and prepare for these conditions.

“We saw equipment we have not encountered so far, which helped us to improve the quality of winter warfare training. It is important that both parties learn from each other.”

UK Defence Attaché in Belgrade, Colonel Nick Ilic, added: “We are pleased to have the opportunity to exchange experiences in cold-weather training because that is the most difficult way to train.

“I am glad that the training has been conducted despite difficult conditions caused not only by Covid restrictions, but also by adverse weather.”

 

The Serbians responded very well to our methods and were very interested to learn new tactics. They learnt how to ski off piste and through forests, how to ascend steep terrain with ski skins carrying weapons and equipment, in addition to learning about how the cold effects tactical considerations and how we counter this.

Colour Sergeant James Keenan