Establishing a Multinational Partner Exchange Program: Why It Is Important to the U.S. Army
as the Operational Environment Changes

by MAJ Larry J. Croucher and CPT Tarik K. Fulcher
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Since the beginning of our nation’s armed forces, whenever the U.S. Army engaged an armed enemy in conflict, Soldiers from foreign countries stood alongside their American counterparts. During the Revolutionary War, France provided armed forces as we battled for independence and established the norm for multinational operations. Throughout our history, multinational operations continue to be the norm. This includes traditional support in the form of armed forces in times of conflict as well as peacetime advisory roles throughout various regions of the world.

Over the past decade, U.S. forces are again serving alongside allies in both Iraq and Afghanistan. During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, more than 40 countries provided Soldiers and support to Multinational Forces-Iraq. Support ranged from more than 46,000 forces from Great Britain down to multiple countries that provided 100 or fewer soldiers.1 In Afghanistan, multinational support remains an important aspect to current operations. As of September 2012, 50 countries provided Soldiers in support of operations throughout the country.2

The U.S. Army stresses the importance of understanding the operating environment. Army Doctrinal Publication 3.0 discusses the characteristics of friendly forces on the modern battlefield and has implemented the term “unified action.” According to ADP 3.0, “Effective unified action requires Army leaders who can understand, influence and cooperate with unified-action partners. The Army depends on its Joint partners for capabilities that do not reside within the service, and it cannot operate effectively without their support.”3 Although ADP 3.0 discusses unified action in terms of Joint operations with other services and government organizations, unified action also implies the need to understand our multinational partners.

Joint Publication 3-16, Multinational Operations, further highlights unified action and stresses the importance of building rapport with multinational partners. It states, “U.S. commanders and their staffs should have an understanding of each member of the multinational force. Much time and effort is expended in learning about the enemy; a similar effort is required to understand the doctrine, capabilities, strategic goals, culture, religion, customs, history and values of each partner.”4

As we serve alongside allies during times of conflict, we quickly realize that differences between how we plan, operate and communicate force our organizations to learn how to work with each other. As global combat operations involving U.S. and multinational forces decrease and our military forces return to home-station training, the establishment of an enduring military partnership between nations remains a vital requirement. This will ensure lessons-learned over the past decade are preserved and passed on, and that our armies maintain an open dialogue to discuss training and operational methodologies.

A method available to establish and maintain enduring relationships with multinational partners is a formal unit exchange program. The U.S. Army has a history of partnering with multinational partners, specifically with armies in Europe and on the Asian continent. The 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment developed an exchange program with a Canadian unit, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), as part of an effort to establish an enduring relationship with an international partner. The purpose of this program is to re-energize a military-to-military relationship through leader exchanges and sharing of common experiences, cavalry history and tactics, techniques and procedures to better prepare leaders for future missions involving multinational partners.

Establishing the program

Leaders from our squadron initially met leaders from Lord Strathcona’s Horse during the U.S. Army reconnaissance summit at Fort Benning, GA, in March 2012. During this event, the idea to start a unit exchange program was discussed. Our two Cavalry organizations shared a similar lineage and would benefit from an enduring relationship centered on sharing history and TTPs, and developing a social network to facilitate ongoing dialogue. Both units shared a high level of interest in committing to this program and we established a “way ahead” which includes key-leader exchanges and future joint training exercises.

To begin an exchange program, we needed to meet requirements set forth by Army regulations and international dictates for travel. The 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry, discovered that authority to allow leaders to travel to Canada was reserved at U.S. Army Forces Command level. The squadron was required to request approval in writing through III Corps G-3 to FORSCOM G-3. This was necessary to ensure forwarding of approval to the Canadian army to ensure they concurred with the exchange concept.

U.S. Northern Command Instruction 10-213, dated Feb. 1, 2008, provides guidance on the approval process for training outside the contiguous United States.

Prerequisites for travel did not hinder our ability to execute the visit to Canada, and the benefit gained from our trip far outweighed the effort required to prepare for travel. The primary lesson-learned is that you need to submit the formal request for travel to FORSCOM no later than 90 days before departure to allow adequate time to process it.

In addition, travelers must clear through the Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System ( This site provides guidelines for travel requirements, to include mandatory completion of training prior to approval.

Finally, it is critical to allocate funding for an exchange program early. For our program, the regimental headquarters provided the funding necessary to execute the visit.

History of Strathcona Regiment

As discussed earlier, Joint doctrine reinforces the importance of understanding our partner’s history and culture. Our exchange began with a study of the background of LdSH (RC). This unit has a proud and extensive history that begins when they were formed by Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, to provide elite troops for the British fighting the South Africans in the Boer Wars in 1900.5 During the Boer Wars, Canadian units became experts in defeating “Boer tactics,” later termed guerrilla warfare.6

LdSH (RC) has also participated in campaigns in both world wars and from 1951 to 1953 in the Korean War. The motto earned during the campaigns of the Boer Wars for the regiment is “perseverance.”

LdSH (RC) also has a recent history of serving along coalition partners, and they recently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Most notably, as a part of Task Force Kandahar, LdSH (RC) provided a continuous presence of heavy armor to aid in the clearance of Panjwaii and all other major operations since September 2006 to the withdrawal of combat forces in December 2011.

Visiting our counterparts helped the organization better understand a foreign command structure. The Canadians have adopted the British model for command structure. A major commands a Canadian squadron (equivalent of U.S. company-sized formation); all other levels are in line with the U.S. Army. The Canadian staff structure is similar to the U.S. staff structure, with a few changes in responsibilities. Their noncommissioned-officer corps is almost identical to ours, with some differences in rank structure. For example, there is no first-sergeant rank in the Canadian army. They use the rank of sergeant major at the troop/company level and above.

Overview of visit

As part of the vital requirement in establishing an enduring relationship with a multinational partner, a solid foundation based on forming personal relationships between key leaders needs to be established. One of the many things that made our visit to LdSH (RC) in Canada successful was the diversity of the team we sent to establish our relationship. There was no official request from LdSH (RC) on who we should send, so our organization conducted detailed analysis on who would best represent our unit and effectively serve alongside Canadian counterparts.

Our team consisted of both key leaders and staff members of differing ranks and responsibility levels. It also included both officers and NCOs. Our team was made up of the squadron S-3, assistant S-3, S-4, S-1, headquarters and headquarters troop commander, one troop-level executive officer, two troop/company first sergeants and a mortar-section leader. As you can see, the group is leader-intensive, but it struck a balance between staff and line-unit leadership.

We also strove to balance the type of leaders and experiences. The strength of this team was the wealth and diversity of experiences it brought to the table. Everyone on the team had combat experience, and three of them had experience in Afghanistan. The most important common denominator was that everyone was passionate about partnering with and learning more about the Canadian army.

Another thing that made this team successful is that we all understood the trip’s expectations. Members understood the commander’s intent was to establish the foundation for an enduring relationship with counterparts. The primary goal for this initial visit was to learn how the Canadian army planned and operated in a training environment and to draw lessons-learned from our experience. It was refreshing to get out there, work and learn from a force without the pressures of combat. We always stress the concept of “train how you fight.” The U.S. military fights on the modern battlefield with the support of its allies, so it is only natural we should train with them.

The itinerary established for this initial visit ensured that U.S. leaders participated in a wide range of events, including those designed to orient the members to the unit’s lineage and headquarters, events designed to showcase how the Canadian army trains and opportunities to socialize with our counterparts. Participants initially received a brief on the history of the regiment, to include guided tours of the regimental footprint. Members toured their mounted troop and historical-vehicle troop. The mounted troop is a ceremonial horse cavalry unit that performs all over Canada. The historical-vehicle troop maintains period vehicles from World War II to the Cold War.

Training events were observed at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright in Alberta, Canada. Participants observed training at both individual and collective level, focusing on the recce squadron (troop-sized organization). The first training event we participated in was the urban-operations lane. Three U.S. Soldiers had extensive experience in urban operations and assisted Canadian troops (platoons) in teaching how to enter and clear a room. This training culminated with a platoon attack on a built-up area.

The culminating event for the team was the opportunity to command-and-control the recce squadron (U.S. troop equivalent) during a zone recce mission. Our team assumed control during the operation as the squadron commander, troop commanders and warrants platoon sergeants. This is when we saw how differently we operated. The most glaring difference is that the normal U.S. Soldier talks six times as much on the net as our counterparts did. Seeing them use hand-and-arm signals and brevity codes on the net demonstrated a mastered art form. We also saw how comfortable they are operating in small sections as they demonstrated mission command. Clear and concise guidance was issued, and leaders would execute and report. This allowed for efficient and effective reconnaissance of a large distance.

The culminating event for the regiment was the validation of a tank squadron (U.S. tank-company equivalent) within LdSH (RC). They conducted a squadron-level live-fire to validate them as ready to deploy. The mission for this operation was a deliberate attack. One tank troop acted as a support by fire, another was the assault element and one was held in reserve. Most of the U.S. team observed on high ground overlooking the objective, although two rode with range-safety-officer vehicles directly behind the assault force and support by fire position. The safety measures they had in place are worth talking about, as they differ sharply from U.S. standardized ranges.

Each RSO team was comprised of three vehicles, one on each flank and one behind. The vehicles on the flanks ensured that the vehicles stayed in the proper axis of advance, while the vehicle behind made sure that the vehicles remained on line. Each vehicle crew received strict instructions to engage targets only within a 45-degree radius of their direction of travel. Looking at it from our vantage point, it looked exactly what you would think a tank assault should look like. It was the most realistic company-level exercise we ever witnessed.

Key lessons-learned

A critical component of the intent behind the establishment of an enduring relationship with LdSH (RC) is to share lessons from both past and current operations. As part of this effort, our team focused on documenting observations during our initial visit. The biggest takeaway from this initial visit is that the Canadian army embraces many of the concepts the U.S. Army is trying to instill in the leaders and future leaders of our force, particularly the concepts of mission command and adaptability. They practice mission command as though it is second nature to them.

By looking closely at how they plan and conduct missions, such as a squadron zone reconnaissance, you can tell that they fully believe in mission command. The U.S. Army defines mission command as “the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable disciplined initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations.”7 LdSH (RC) accomplishes this by issuing orders that focus on a strong commander’s intent and well-defined tasks that have clear and concise endstates. In turn, the subordinate commanders receive the mission with enough time to turn it over to their NCOs so parallel planning can occur. During execution, the individual sections were able to operate independently and efficiently. Everyone knew the commander’s intent, and when the conditions changed, they could quickly seize the initiative to accomplish the mission.

We also learned that the Canadian army believes and practices the principle of adaptive leadership. They have been asked to accomplish a wide variety of missions, and they consistently think outside the norm to accomplish them. As an example, the Canadian army was the first North Atlantic Treaty Organization force to use heavy armor in Afghanistan. The Canadian army initiated an offensive in the Panjwii during Summer 2006. The Light Armored Vehicle III did not do well because of the many farmer fields and hedge groves they could not safely cross without exposing themselves to rocket-propelled-grenade fire. The Leopard I at the tactical level brought much-needed direct-fire support, enhanced optics and precision weapon systems to the fight.8

Leaders who participated in the deployment explained to us that LdSH (RC) was in the process of decommissioning all tanks for placement in museums when the commander received a call from the Canadian army’s chief of staff that he wanted heavy armor in Afghanistan in three months. LdSH (RC) took those orders, executed them violently and helped clear the Taliban out of that volatile region. This is a case study in adaptive leadership and problem-solving.

Another key lesson-learned is the importance of empowering junior leaders. On one of the days we went out with a platoon to build a fighting position out of trees. This is not a formal evaluated task for this unit but is a necessary part of their fieldcraft when deploying within certain operational environments. They call the design a “crib,” which is a miniature log cabin filled with sand and can withstand several 105mm tank rounds; we used the axes and bow saws that were a part of their pioneer tools. The entire troop (U.S. platoon equivalent) pooled their experiences to help complete this task. Many of the lower-enlisted came from logging backgrounds and could easily identify good trees to cut down and proper techniques. One Soldier on a vehicle crew with an extensive logging background had overall responsibility for cutting and moving all the trees. When it came time to assemble the crib, there was another Soldier who had built several log cabins by hand before he joined. Everyone contributed their expertise or just worked hard as one team.

The establishment of an enduring military partnership between nations remains a vital requirement as operations shift from theaters of conflict to home stations. JP 3-16 states that “effective partnerships take time and attention to develop.”9 Our initial visit, as the foundation for an enduring relationship, afforded leaders from both organizations the opportunity to share lessons-learned from combat operations over the past decade, along with current training philosophies. Our intent is to preserve and pass on these lessons and maintain an open dialogue to discuss training and operational methodologies. By continuing to build rapport with our multinational partner in Canada and gaining a deeper understanding of their culture, history and doctrine, our organization will be better prepared to execute operations in the current operating environment.

The way ahead

As the relationship continues to develop, both organizations anticipate formally recognizing this partnership through the formation of a reciprocal unit exchange program. By formalizing this enduring relationship, both units share a permanent bond, and Soldiers and leaders in both organizations will be able to carry forward the partnership well into the future and forever link our Cavalry organizations.

To continue the initiative established during our initial visit to Canada, the squadron will maintain momentum by planning future events with our Canadian counterparts. In December 2012, Lord Strathcona’s Horse received a formal invitation to travel to Fort Hood, TX, to observe U.S. Army operations and participate in the squadron’s spur-ride program. Along with this visit, leaders and staff members in both organizations will continue to communicate via various social-media outlets to continue dialogue and share TTPs and lessons-learned. To further develop this partnership, more training in 2013 and beyond is planned.


MAJ Larry Croucher is an operations officer with 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood. His previous duty assignments include operations officer, 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood; security assistance training officer, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Camp Eggers, Kabul, Afghanistan; troop commander, 1st Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Knox, KY; company commander, 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, Fort Riley, KS; and platoon leader and company executive officer, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood. MAJ Croucher’s military education includes Command and General Staff College, Combined Arms Services Staff School, Armor Officer Basic Course, Airborne School and Armor Officer Advance Course. He holds a bachelor’s of arts degree from Indiana University in telecommunications and a master’s of science degree from the University of Louisville in human-resource education.

CPT Tarik Fulcher commands Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood. Past duty assignments include Cavalry troop commander, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood and Diwaniyah, Iraq; brigade liaison officer to the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, Mosul, Iraq; and platoon leader and company executive officer, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, Fort Carson, CO. CPT Fulcher’s military schooling includes the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course, Airborne School and the Armor Officer Basic Course. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree from Florida A&M University in economics.


1 “Iraq War Coalition troop deployment,” retrieved from, no date.

2 “International Security Assistance Force key facts and figures,” retrieved from, Sept. 10, 2012.

3 ADP 3.0, October 2011.

4 JP 3-16, March 2007.

5 “Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians),” retrieved from, Sept. 3, 2012.

6 “Second Boer War,” retrieved from, Sept. 27, 2012.

7 ADP 6-0, May 2012.

8 Bergen, Bob, Dr., “Our Leopard tanks make the leap to Afghanistan,” no date.

9 JP 3-16, March 2007.

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