Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic and the Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff, General Mirko Sundov, on Saturday attended the start of the military exercise ‘Velebit 18 - Joint Force’ at the "Josip Jovic" barracks in Udbina, central Croatia.
'Velebit 18 - Joint Force' is a comprehensive, joint exercise involving all army units and taking place without interruption for 72 hours at 11 locations throughout Croatia.
As President, Grabar-Kitarovic is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and she expressed hope that the exercise would provide a clear picture of the army's capabilities and the segments where it needed additional training.
She commended the exercise for demonstrating "good preparedness and ambition in testing the capabilities of the army's active and reserve components," and commended an increase in budget allocations for defence, noting that it was necessary for Croatia's compliance with its international obligations as a member of the international community and NATO as well as because it guaranteed the country's security and stability.
Commenting on the latest US donation of Black Hawk helicopters, she said that they were not "a handout by the US and Congress but a clear sign that our allies recognise us as a responsible member of NATO which provides more than an adequate contribution to joint efforts in dealing with global challenges and security threats such as terrorism."
Speaking at the event, Defence Minister Krsticevic welcomed all soldiers, Croatian Navy members, commissioned and non-commissioned officers, commander and generals, as well as representatives of the National Guard of Minnesota and the US Army as the key partner and ally.
He said that the exercise headquarters at Udbina was an example of a modern headquarters.
"This command, which leads joint operations of the army branches in real time, in an exercise that has not happened since the Homeland War, demonstrates a high level of competence and understanding of the most modern principles of military doctrine," said Krsticevic.
Army Chief-of-Staff Sundov said that the exercise, which is the Croatian Army's main training event in 2018, involves around 5,500 soldiers and a part of the reserve forces.