A US Marine with a humanitarian objective

One of those taking part in VIKING11 is Major James Coffman, from the United States Marine Corps.

Photo: Anton Thorstensson / Försvarsmakten

-I love Enköping! I’m from a small town in the South, and here I feel comfortable. The people are hospitable, this town it is small but charming and I feel at home.

James Coffman sees many similarities between his experience as a Marine, and the scenario in VIKING. In the exercise he is playing a CIMIC officer in the Land Component Command, which corresponds to his role in the Marines.
- We are the ones at the front lines together with the infantry. Our job is to engage the support of the local population.

This time last year, James Coffman was in Marjah, Afghanistan, as a part of a USA led operation. As the biggest producer of narcotics in the world, Marjah was an important financial stronghold for the Taliban. This is a similar scenario to VIKING where the opposition forces are playing the role of the Taliban. However, James Coffman’s opinion is that the actions taken in the exercise are less realistic, which he found frustrating at times.
- The exercise is scripted in a way that I do not completely recognize. Here the United Nations, not the military, has access to money. My experience from real life is that the military have their own funds. But of course there is method to the madness, and the positive effect is that we have to work more closely together.

-The staffing of certain positions also cause a bit of a problem, as one and the same person playing several different roles can lead to confusion. Also, if we as a unit would be physically on the ground, our intelligence  would register a movement of 45 000 refugees. Here there is no one on the ground, so we are caught by surprise.

James Coffman believes the true value of VIKING is that it’s a multidimensional exercise. That there are both civilians and military, and also that there are participants from many different nationalities.
- When I left Iraq in 2003, I was relieved by Poles, Latvians and Bulgarians. That gave me an immediate bonding with them. Now with VIKING, I have been working with a variety of nationalities, who I now feel much closer to. This bond between people is the best part of the VIKING exercise, says Major James Coffman.