The general public “know” Kazakhstan from the comic Borat character of TV and film fame (or infamy, depending on how you look at it). But of course the reality is very different, for one thing, Kazakstan is the birthplace of the famous Kazakh horesmen – more commonly known in the West as the Cossacks.
Now here’s something else they might become famous for – recent photos of Kazakh airborne troops see them sporting a camouflage uniform that bears a rather close resemblance to the US Army’s “UCP-Delta” pattern about to be tested in Afghanistan.
The uniforms were seen during Exercise Steppe Eagle, a two-week Partnership for Peace exercise, involving British Territorial Army (reserves) soldiers from 7th Battalion The Rifles (7 RIFLES) and Kazakh airborne troops.
The Rifles were in Kazakhstan for two reasons; to hone their live firing capabilities using the extensive range facilities on the Illiskiy Training Area and to instruct the Kazakh airborne troops of Kazbat 1 & 2 in peace support operations.
The Kazakhstan military are eager to gain United Nations certification and take their place alongside other countries in UN-led operations around the globe under the UN Security Council Resolution Banner.
In between the training periods there were plenty of opportunities for the participating countries’ troops to mix and learn about each other’s weapons and fire them.
It was, however, the final field training exercise that was designed to really test the mettle of the troops.
The 7 RIFLES Company was put under the control of the Kazakhs for the three-day exercise. The scenario was set so it was similar to operations currently being carried out in Afghanistan.
Colonel Daulet Ospanov, Deputy Commander of the Kazakh Airmobile Brigade, said:
“This is a huge exercise for us, the benefits are improved relationship with Kazakh and British troops, they are now like brothers.”
He went on to say:
“We look for interoperability, friendship, co-operation and ethos to rub off on the Kazakhs. The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom have taken part in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They have a lot of experience and we regard the British Army as very professional and the leading nation at the forefront of peace support operations.”
Clearly the Kazakh soldiers had learned much from their training with 7 RIFLES as they effectively put into practice their new found skills in crowd control, cordon and search methods when dealing with bombs and improvised explosive devices.
For the Territorials it was a rare chance to get to operate in Russian-built Hip helicopters and eight-wheeled armoured personnel carriers that in a different era they would have been taught to recognise as enemy.