Mountain Warfare Battlefield Tour 2024

Staff Ride 2024 participants

Mountain Warfare Battlefield Tour 2024

From 20 May to 22 May 2024, the NATO Mountain Warfare Centre of Excellence (MW COE) successfully conducted its annual Battlefield Tour in Kobarid and Škofja Loka, attracting 23 participants and 3 lecturers from 5 countries. This event is one of the Centre’s efforts to foster individual professional development and highlight the importance of mountain warfare within the Community of Interest, along with the historical events.

This year’s tour focused on the 12th Soška/Isonzo Battle, a significant World War I engagement known for its strategic complexity and intense mountain warfare. The battle, fought in October 1917, saw the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies clash in the rugged terrain around Kobarid, Slovenia.

Main Objectives of the event were:

  • To study 12. Soška / Isonzo Battle Planning, Deployment, Offensive and Defensive Activities.
  • To identify what might be common parallels with modern (Mountain) Warfare.
  • To identify lessons to be learned especially regarding to: Deployment and logistics, Intelligence and reconnaissance, Communication, Combat support, Command and control.

During the three-day event, expert lectures provided participants with deep insights into the 12th Soška/Isonzo Battle. Historians Dr. Mario Christian Ortner from Austria and Dr. Blaž Torkar from Slovenia gave a strategic/operational overview from the AUT/GER and ITA perspectives. Additionally, LTC Miha Kuhar from NATO MW COE discussed the operational/tactical principles. Their presentations enriched the participants’ understanding of Mountain Warfare during World War I and its contemporary applications through NATO AJP 3 principles and the operational considerations of joint and multinational operations.

A notable aspect of the tour was how the weather cooperated to enhance the realism of the experience. Heavy rain and fog on the Kolovrat terrain matched the conditions of the 12th Soška/Isonzo Battle, giving participants a true sense of the tough circumstances soldiers faced during the actual battle.

Observations and conclusions from participants are as follows:

Unity of Effort:
– Historical Event: The Austro-Hungarian and German forces coordinated their efforts for the first time on a large scale during the 12th Battle of the Isonzo. This collaboration led to a significant breakthrough against the Italian lines.
– Modern Principle: In contemporary operations, unity of effort ensures that all elements of a coalition or joint force work towards a common objective, maximizing the effectiveness of combined resources.

Concentration of Force:
– Historical Event: The Central Powers concentrated their forces and firepower at key points along the Italian front, using artillery and poison gas to create gaps in the Italian defenses.
– Modern Principle: Concentration of force involves focusing combat power at the decisive time and place to achieve maximum impact, a tactic still vital in modern warfare.

Freedom of Action:
– Historical Event: The German infiltration tactics during Caporetto allowed small units to bypass strong points and penetrate deep into Italian lines, disrupting command and control.
– Modern Principle: Freedom of action allows commanders the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions on the battlefield, enabling more dynamic and effective responses.

– Historical Event: The Central Powers’ ability to adapt their tactics, such as using stormtrooper units for infiltration and rapid advances, showcased flexibility in their operational approach.
– Modern Principle: Flexibility in operations allows military forces to shift strategies and tactics as needed to respond to unexpected developments and exploit emerging opportunities.

– Historical Event: The Central Powers took the initiative at Caporetto, launching a surprise offensive that caught the Italians unprepared and led to a rout.
– Modern Principle: Initiative in modern operations involves proactive actions to seize and maintain the momentum, preventing the enemy from regaining control or composure.

Offensive Spirit:
– Historical Event: The aggressive push of the Central Powers during the 12th Battle embodied an offensive spirit, aiming to decisively defeat the Italian forces.
– Modern Principle: Offensive spirit is crucial for maintaining momentum and putting the enemy on the defensive, which is essential for achieving strategic objectives.

– Historical Event: The use of gas and the timing of the attack at Caporetto achieved tactical surprise, overwhelming the Italian defenses and leading to a significant breakthrough.
– Modern Principle: Surprise remains a fundamental principle, as unexpected actions can disrupt enemy plans and create opportunities for exploitation.


The 12th Battle of the Isonzo offers several historical lessons that align with NATO’s AJP 3 operational principles. Understanding these connections helps military professionals appreciate how historical strategies and tactics can inform modern joint and multinational operations, ensuring a comprehensive approach to contemporary warfare challenges.

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