Czech Republic Army Airborne Assault during Saber Junction 17, 27 April 2017 (US Army)

Saber Junction 17

US Army’s 2nd Cavalry Charge to Multinational Exercise

On a grassy, flower-covered hill in Bavaria, five M777 155mm Howitzers and their support vehicles stand out in the pastoral scene despite their camouflage.

This Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment is moving toward the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany for Saber Junction 17.

Exercise Saber Junction 17 is a U.S. Army Europe directed exercise designed to assess the readiness of the 2d Cavalry to conduct unified land operations alongside NATO Allies and partners.

Over the next two weeks, these soldiers, and approximately 3,400 other U.S. soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment will be training alongside approximately 1,000 soldiers from NATO allies Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia, and four partner nations, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Ukraine.

This exercise, however, differs from many of its predecessors in that the 2d Cavalry did not convoy directly into Hohenfels, but moved into various small Maneuver Rights Areas spread throughout the countryside nearby. These MRAs allow the unit to set up position prior to entering the training area to facilitate a more realistic entry into a conflict.

Moving from their home station in Vilseck to the MRA, instead of directly into the box, exercises all sorts of skills for the maneuver units, said Capt. Michael Myers, Observer, Coach, Trainer for JMRC. Coordinating with U.S. and German governments to enable movement across German highways, small local roads and even private property gives the regiment the flexibility to utilize bigger maneuver units outside the confines of the Hohenfels training area.

This also allows the regiment to practice the movement of large formations over long distances as they might have to one day in a time of war, added Myers.

Vehicle mechanical issues during the movement taught the regiment some of the difficulties of operating large amounts of equipment over a wide area.

The challenges of operating in the German countryside were evident to the soldiers as well as the trainers.

“This is my fourth Hohenfels rotation, but it’s the first time we’ve ever done this,” said Spc. Sean Pope, Fire Control Specialist, 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

Pope also said that he had to be aware of the local drivers passing the convoy and take extra care while towing a large trailer around sharp turns.

Once they reached their destination, they were eager to establish a defensive position and to have the opportunity to train in a new environment

The units of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment will move into the Hohenfels training area soon to resume normal operations and engage the enemy, having learned about maneuvering in civilian areas and the complexities of large scale movement, even in their home turf.

38th Infantry Division Rescue Downed Pilot

Deep behind enemy lines, as a battle continues between NATO forces and a foreign aggressor, a downed pilot evades capture by opposing forces. Within 24 hours, she is rescued by a group of U.S. special operation forces, who are quickly responding to the recovery mission issued by their higher command.

While the scenario is realistic, it is all part of a fictional conflict created for a three-week long training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, here. The exercise, Saber Junction 17, brings together units from across the U.S. and NATO allies and partners to work on allied interoperability form the company through division levels.

Prior to the rescue mission, at the exercise Higher Control element, the Division Tactical Action Center of the 38th Infantry Division of the Indiana Army National Guard was executing their downed pilot drill and communicating orders to troops on the ground.

“From the division perspective, this is validation of our own tactical standard operating procedures,” said Sgt. Maj. James Forbes, 38th ID’s operations sergeant major. “We’re able to utilize the assets here we would have if we were to deploy to the European theater in a real-world situation.”

Soldiers and airmen at the DTAC were busy tracking assets and analyzing intelligence reports, though not without some communication challenges between the different elements, which comprise soldiers from Romania, Poland, Slovakia and the United States.

“Getting into this exercise, and needing to overcome the language barrier, there’s definitely a learning curve,” said Sgt. 1st Class Larry Zickmund, Battle NCO for the DTAC. “This is something we need to practice, so we can be better in the future. It’s been enjoyable, though.”

For the Indiana Army National Guard, this exercise was the first opportunity they had to work in a tactical environment alongside soldiers from Slovakia, their state partner through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.

“In my country, we have a lot of the same processes and coordination. There are not a lot of differences between us with solving problems,” said Slovakian Army Cpt. Peter Mrazik, an engineering officer. “Our planning and controlling of the operation is a lot like the U.S.”

Mrazik said that some Slovakian soldiers attend a military decision making process course in the U.S., which prepares them for successful coordination with U.S. forces during exercises like SJ17.

“I see a lot of skills here, and hope that I can use them in the future,” he added.

In addition to the 38th ID gaining experience in a multinational environment, soldiers in the DTAC worked with airmen who brought an Air Force perspective to an Army heavy organization.

“As a staff, we’ve really come together and to pick up everything quickly, which strengthens our partnership between the Army, and with multinational forces,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Peter Dowling. “You see differences in techniques, so it’s very beneficial to see what works what best. Our partners learn from us, and we learn from them.”

Overall, the exercise is preparing units to engage with NATO partners, and their Air Force counterparts, to enhance their ability to respond to a near-peer adversary.

Dowling added, “If we were to engage in a real fight, it wouldn’t be the first time we’re working with the Polish in a fires element, or with the Romanian liaison officer. We’ll know that we’ve done something similar before, and we can take away the lessons learned from this.”

Exercise Saber Junction 17 is a U.S. Army Europe-directed exercise designed to assess the readiness of the U.S. Army’s Stryker-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment to conduct unified land operations, with a particular emphasis on rehearsing the transition from garrison to combat operations, and exercising operational and tactical decision-making and skills.

The annual exercise will take place primarily at the U.S. Army’s Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas in northeastern Bavaria, from April 25-May 19, 2017. Saber Junction 17 will include nearly 4,500 participants from a variety of units from Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine the United Kingdom and the United States.

Source: US Army.

Image: A Czech Republic Soldier assualts through an objective during a joint airborne operation and airfield seizure with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade during a joint field exercise as a part of Exercise Saber Junction 17 in Mimon, Czech Republic April 17, 2017. Exercise Saber Junction demonstrates the ability of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to quickly move and assemble its forces in collaboration with NATO allies to secure critical assets, which enables following forces to air land crucial equipment.

 

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