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Reservists Demonstrate Military Skills in Bulgaria

CIOR's Military Competition (MILCOMP) is a true test of combat effectiveness and this year’s competition in Sofia saw 129 competitors from 17 countries battling it out for the top prize through thunder, lightning, rain and sunshine.

43 teams of three competitors demonstrated advanced leadership, courage, physical fitness and a broad spectrum of military skills over the three-day competition.

The competition consists of pistol and rifle shooting, land and water obstacle courses, military navigation (orienteering) and a Law of Armed Conflict test. There is also usually a first aid event but it had to be cancelled this year as a result of the inclement weather. The scoring is biased towards shooting, then navigation and then the obstacle courses.

Day One saw the teams take to the range to shoot the Bulgarian Makarov Pistol and the AK47 Rifle with iron sight. The Pistol competition was on a 25 metre range, the Rifle competition on a 200 metre range. The competitors fired precision targets and then on rapid fire.

The competitors had had a chance to zero the weapons the day before, but that could not prepare them for the heavens opening, their sights filling with rain and targets being blown away. Proceedings were delayed, which unfortunately meant the first aid competition had to be cancelled, but there was still time for the competitors to sit the Law of Armed Conflict theory test.

Had the first aid event taken place the competitors would have been part of a multinational task force asked to go to the site of an explosion, issued with a weapon, a helmet and a first aid kit. As well as practical skills of administering first aid, the 12-minute scenario tests competitors in securing the disaster area, identifying casualties as conscious or unconscious, establishing an airway, checking for breathing and circulation, triaging casualties, and leadership and communication skills.

CIOMR provide judges for the medical element of the event, but the Legal Committee also send a judge as the scenario also tests practical application of the Law of Armed Conflict in the scenario. Competitors are required to adhere to the Geneva Convention and establish whether or not the casualty is a prisoner of war.

The winners of the shooting competition were Germany 4. Canada 1, a female team, won the Law of Armed Conflict test, followed by Germany 4 in 2nd and Sweden 1 in 3rd.

Day Two is the most spectacular, with teams taking on the mighty land and water obstacle courses. The 500 metre land obstacle course has 20 set obstacles of set dimensions in a set order at a set distance apart. Obstacles include a 5 metre rope ladder, trip wires, balance beams, tunnels, a 2 metre deep pit, assault walls between 1 and 1.9m metres high and a chicane.

The form of the course is left to the discretion of the organiser, depending upon the area available, and the ground underfoot must be firm. The course in Sofia was around a track, on gravel not especially forgiving.

The 50 metre water obstacle course has 5 set obstacles including a high table, a floating rig at water level, and poles above and below water. The prize for the second day is awarded to team with the fastest combined time across both the land and water obstacle courses and in 2009 the winners were Canada 2.

Day Three tests land navigation, with competitors setting off on an orienteering course with a target completion time of 1 hour 40 min. The Chairman of the Military Competition, Major Ian Webster (UK), said the course in the Sofia was the most testing course he has ever seen, “very technical and undulating, almost vertical”.

Competitors’ navigation skills are challenged using aerial photography, sketches and diagrams as well as maps. Military skills such as grenade throwing and distance judging are also tested along the course. Sometimes there is also an element of surprise such as a zip wire or abseiling. This year the winner on Day 3 was Germany 3. One of the team members, 1st Lieutenant Matthias Blaschke, was competing in his 19th CIOR MILCOMP!

In a prize giving ceremony at the National Palace of Culture the Best Sportsmanship prize was awarded to Germany 4 in recognition of the athlete Captain Sven Granse who fell from the 5 metre ladder, breaking a collarbone, yet still completed the land and water obstacle courses and the orienteering event.

Finland 1 won the Guest category, for teams from countries that are not full members of NATO. The winners of the International category were International 4, comprising members from the UK, France and Canada. International teams are formed from the Reserves each nation brings in case of injury, to give them a chance to compete. Names are drawn from a hat into teams of mixed nationalities.

In the Novice competition, for athletes competing for the first time, UK 4 came 1st, UK 1 came 2nd and Bulgaria 5 came 3rd. In the Experienced category, for competitors in their second or third year of competition, the winners were Germany 5.

France 1 took first place in the Veterans competition, for teams who have competed, or who have a member who has competed, four or more times. The Female competition was won by UK 3, followed by Canada 1 in 2nd and Norway 2 in 3rd.

The Overall winners were France 1, which included athlete Captain Eric Chabin who has won the top prize 6 times. Germany 5 was second, and UK 4, a Novice team, was third. It is believed this is the first time in the last two decades a Novice team has been in the Top 3.

The ceremony concluded with Bulgarian organisers Colonel Masov and Colonel Angelov being presented with certificates of thanks for their assistance in running the competition.

Major Webster said “Elliot Hillman, a competitor last year who went on to join the regular British Army has just been awarded the Sword of Honour at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for being the best cadet in his class. In third place was another of our competitors from last year, Ollie Gray. Elliot said that the discipline and fitness that training for this competition instils in athletes helped him achieve the Sword of Honour.

“MILCOMP takes your military skills to a totally different level and CIOR also incorporates the benefits of intercultural experience and friendship amongst the reserve forces of NATO and its partners. If I were to find myself working with a previous participant in MILCOMP on operations I would have every confidence in them as MILCOMP raises standards.”

© 2012 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers