Allied airborne units in Europe will join together as a multi-national team to practice their ability to quickly and effectively respond to regional crises during the U.S. Army Europe-led exercise Swift Response 17: Phase II, here, Oct 2-20.
Swift Response 17-2 will include approximately 6,000 participants from 12 NATO and European partner nations.
The exercise will feature multi-national, airborne, joint forcible entry personnel and equipment drops; air assault operations; a force build-up using a short take-off and landing strip; and non-combatant evacuation operations.
Swift Response 17-2 is a multi-national training event that allows allies to connect — personally, professionally, technically and tactically — to build stronger, more capable forces that are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to crisis situations.
Off-post maneuver rights areas will be used as drop zones during the exercise to provide Allied airborne units the space required to conduct proper tactical maneuvers. Access in and around those off-post areas will only be affected for several hours on the days of the airborne jumps. German and U.S. safety officials will be on site to direct traffic around those areas during the operation.
Media days will be held Oct. 9-10, 2017. Media interested in attending the exercise should contact the 7th Army Training Command Public Affairs Office by Thursday, Oct. 5 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grafenwoehr, Germany (Sept. 27, 2017) — “Being a sniper isn’t just about being good at shooting,” said a Portuguese sniper competing in the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Sept. 24-28. “You can be an excellent shooter, but if you cannot hide or see the terrain features then you cannot be a sniper.”
The friendly competition brought snipers from 14 different countries together for five days to challenge their sniper skills through a series of events. One of those events was a stalking lane, a skillset that makes a proficient shooter a sniper.
“The principle of being a sniper is being able to insert into the terrain without being detected,” said a Portuguese sniper.
“If you can shoot all day long and hit your targets with no problem, but can’t maneuver undetected then what’s the point,” asked Sgt. Luke Smith, one of the graders in the competition and a qualified sniper from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center’s 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.
Stalking requires a sniper to have the ability to know how to camouflage themselves and their equipment based on different environments such as heavy-vegetated areas or heavy-populated areas.
“It entails prepping for that mission and camouflaging yourself multiple times as you move to your objective or where you need to be,” said Smith.
Moving through a vegetated area, a stalker would have to take into consideration the colors, height and thickness of that vegetation in order to prepare their concealment during their move.
Moving through an urban area, a stalker would have to consider the appearance of the local populace, building structures, equipment needed to camouflage a room in a building, etc.
“Learning to stalk requires a sniper to have the ability to look at yourself in 360 degrees, and know what is blending and what is not,” said Smith. “Know how to get rid of the dark spaces on either your face, weaponry or equipment.”
Like shooting a rifle, stalking requires repetitive development in order to get better.
Training creates proficiency when it comes to stalking, said a Portuguese sniper. The most important part of training is experiencing with different tactics and techniques.
That’s when participating in this year’s competition comes into play. The multinational sniper competition provided an opportunity for snipers to practice and hone those essential skills like stalking, while learning new practices from each other.
“Getting to see other countries, what their techniques are, what weaponry they have, what their capable of, and being able to learn from them and them from us is a huge opportunity for everyone here,” said Smith.
“It’s good to be here in a new environment, to see other things and to improve ourselves,” said a Portuguese sniper.
GOTLAND, Sweden–Eight helicopters and 95 Soldiers from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade participated in exercise Aurora 17 in Sweden from 13-27 Sept., 2017. Exercise Aurora 17 is an exercise designed to improve, test and show the capabilities of the Swedish Armed Forces.
Four AH-64 Apache helicopters from 1st Bn., 3rd Avn. Regt., “Vipers,” and four CH-47 Chinook helicopters from 1st Bn., 214th Avn. Regt., “Big Windy,” participated in the exercise. The aviation task force joined over 19,000 Swedish participants and approximately 1,300 U.S. service members from the Army, Marines and Navy.
The helicopters performed numerous missions throughout the exercise ranging from movement to contact, reconnaissance, air-assault and casualty evacuations.
The task force from the 12th CAB began the exercise by aiding the opposing force as “red air.” This allowed AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook pilots to fly against mounted and unmounted Air Defense systems.
Swedish Air Defense Regiment 61 of the Swedish Armed Forces provided the main defense against rotary wing assets in the form of the man-portable RBS 70 “Robotsystem” 70, and the larger self-propelled Combat Vehicle 90. The pilots and air-defenders conducted two days of daytime training flights in order to allow all parties involved the opportunity to test their long and short range detection systems before the full scenarios began.
Aurora 17 provides a unique environment in which the rotary wing assets can fly against active air defense equipment in a large area with varied terrain.
The Soldiers and aircraft switched sides during the last phase of the exercise. This change took place with a simultaneous movement of all aircraft and equipment from Bunge Airbase on the island of Gotland to the mainland 90 miles north of Stockholm.
The Task Force quickly transitioned into offensive operations with the Swedes once the aircraft and Soldiers settled at a small air base north of Stockholm. The AH-64’s and CH-47’s continued to execute air-assault and attack aviation missions with the Swedish Armed Forces.
During the exercise the Task Force hosted the Supreme Commander of Swedish Armed Forces General Micael Byden and the Minister of Defense for Sweden, Peter Hultqvist.
The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade trains and conducts aviation missions across the full spectrum of unified land operations for United States Army Europe, United States European Command and our allied and NATO partners.
By Capt. Jaymon Bell (12th Combat Aviation Brigade)
NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria — The American military presence in Bulgaria and Romania “is critical to a strong Europe and a deterrence to Russian aggression,” said Col. Benjamin Jones, referring to the proximity of Russian forces in Crimea, just some 200 miles away.
That U.S. presence is at Camp Mihail Kogalniceanu, or Camp MK, Romania; and Novo Selo Training Area, or NSTA, Bulgaria, said Jones, who is the commander of U.S. Army Garrison, Ansbach, Germany, which oversees both sites.
It’s important for rotational units to maintain a continual presence in Romania and Bulgaria to effect an immediate response to aggression, said Maj. Brad Stark, operations officer for the Black Sea Area Support Team at Camp MK. His team oversees training there.
By maintaining that presence, should a conflict arise, there won’t be a need to conduct a forced entry in an anti-access, area denial setting since troops will already be on the ground, he reasoned.
Stark noted that NSTA, Camp MK and other military bases in both nations can and have hosted a maneuver force of nearly a brigade, along with NATO troops. The most recent exercise of that magnitude was Saber Guardian 17, which ended about a month ago.
In addition to such exercises, Camp MK hosts a small squadron of Royal Canadian Air Force combat jets, which are fully armed and conduct air-policing missions over the Black Sea, he said. The British Royal Air Force preceded them in their NATO-led role and the Portuguese are expected to eventually replace the Canadians.
Additionally, the Marine Corps has a presence of 1,300 members of the Black Sea Response Force at Camp MK, who are serving as a quick-reaction force, he added. They will depart soon for a training mission in Norway.
Just recently, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment left after a nine-month rotation. They will be replaced by 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment next month, he said.
Currently, 2nd Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade (Assault Helicopter Battalion), is at Camp MK with 20 Black Hawk helicopters, doing combined training missions with the Romanians.
There are also Soldiers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructing and renovating a number of facilities at Camp MK and NSTA, as both areas continue with their expansion plans.
The important thing to remember, Stark said, is that the training missions use a “total force approach,” which means all U.S. military, including Guard and Reserve, train with host-nation forces, as well as with NATO partners.
Stark is a member of the Alabama Army National Guard, and a number of Reserve Soldiers at Camp MK are with the 21st Theater Support Command, which handles combat service support.
Matt Cornman, physical security specialist at NSTA with U.S. Army Installation Management Command, said the biggest value of training here is the coming together of the many coalition partners, each of which has its own unique doctrine and way of operating.
By combining forces, much is learned by all and the whole becomes greater than the parts, he added.
Eastern Romania and Bulgaria are considered more remote areas of Europe, so getting troops and their supplies there takes some creativity, Jones said.
Lt. Col. Tracey Smith, commander of U.S. forces at both Camp MK and NSTA, said troops can arrive via a small commercial runway on Camp MK that is run by the Romanians. Additionally, U.S. tanks and other vehicles and equipment can be offloaded at the nearby port of Constanta on the Black Sea or at the port of Varna in Bulgaria, which is also on the Black Sea.
From there, troops can be bused to NSTA, which is a 28,000-acre training area where live-fire and maneuver training is conducted.
Elements of a brigade might also split off to other training areas like Graf Ignatievo, Bezmer and Aytos in Bulgaria and Cincu, Babadag and Smardan in Romania, she said.
Julia Sibilla, site director of NSTA, noted that there are other ways troops arrive in Romania and Bulgaria. Some of them are bused in from Poland, Italy and Germany, she said.
Railway cars haul their equipment from Constanta, Varna or other points in Europe. The NSTA railhead at Zimnitsa is just 17 miles away, she noted.
Another way troops get in to NSTA is by helicopter, she said. Some 600 paratroopers jumped into Bezmer in Bulgaria recently, which is an hour from NSTA.
Not all arrivals are U.S. troops, she added. For instance, during Exercise Trident Jaguar, the French took the lead, she said, adding that leading the exercise was a huge confidence booster for that NATO ally.
Also, non-NATO partners, like the Georgians, have trained here as well, she said.
WECOMING THE AMERICANS
Bulgarian and Romanian military leaders and civilians alike have been extremely welcoming of the Americans here, said Sibilla.
Romanian Col. Eduart Dodu, the commander of Camp MK, said “our relationship with the United States is great,” and he added he hopes the U.S. presence will be permanent and even expand.
NATO, along with the U.S. and Romania, will continue to put more capabilities in this region because they understand the threat and that adding more resources means investing in the collective future, Dodu predicted.
Dodu said he recalls the days when Romania was a member of the Soviet’s Warsaw Pact treaty. He said those were dark days and it’s not a period to which he or the Romanian people ever want to return.
Scot Seitz, deputy commander, Black Sea Area Support Team at NSTA, stressed the importance of NSTA as a forward training area.
The retired Marine said training here guarantees that “U.S. troops are as ready as possible to close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver.”
Having a presence here assures allies and partners that the U.S. is committed and dissuades adversaries who might be tempted to meddle in the region, he said.
It’s important too that lawmakers and the American people understand the value they’re getting in having a presence here, he added.
TRZEBIAN, Poland – Troopers from 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division engaged in a demonstration of readiness, Presidenski Range, Trzebian, Poland, Sep. 25, 2017.
The unit is in Poland to support Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. endeavor to fulfill NATO commitments by rotating U.S. -based units throughout the European theater and training with NATO Allies and partners.
The combined arms live-fire is a routine demonstration, said Lt. Col. Dave Maxwell, squadron commander, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team. It is a validation of movement and to ensure equipment is in full working order.
Equipment utilized in the live fire was a team comprised of Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Abrams tanks and Apache helicopters. The air support element was provided by 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade.
Abrams tanks provided rear screening with Bradley Fighting Vehicles progressing in bounding movements to engage targets at phase lines.
The demonstration also displays the ability to control the troop-size element as it moves onto the field and executes its live fire, Maxwell said. It also displays the ability to transport equipment, personnel, and supplies to execute the mission.
“We’re excited, as an organization, to be able to come over here with all of our military equipment and train and operate as a fully capable armored cavalry squadron,” Maxwell said.
The unit prepared for the rotation with months of planning and training. Weeks were dedicated to living in field environments and utilizing the Advanced Gunnery Training System. The tank simulator enhances the foundation of gunnery skills like target recognition and fire control.
Although simulation is an excellent method for education and training, it is a controlled environment.
“Time and experience prepares the Soldier; the longer they’re in country, the more experienced they become,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Garcia, 2nd platoon, Tomahawk Troop, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team. “A lot of things we do at home station is a baseline to get you to where you need to be but I don’t truly think you can ever be 100 percent ready until you’re actually there.”
As it is only the first of many ranges for the unit, the opportunity for improvement and experience is plentiful.
Many of the Troopers are ready and eager to get out onto the field with the Polish Army, Garcia said.
Training with Allies and partners is a way to see each other’s equipment capabilities and how they might be combined on the battlefield, he said. It would be interesting to see what type of movement maneuvers the squadron and the Polish Army can do together.
Working closely with Allies is a training priority for the squadron, Maxwell said.
“We want to increase our ability to operate with our NATO Allies,” Maxwell explained. “Increasing our interoperability and our ability to shoot, move and communicate is what, as a squadron, we’re looking to achieve.”
PABRADE, Lithuania — At a camp nestled in Lithuania’s remote, rainy forests, Staff Sgt. Erick Martinez and his platoon of artillerymen settled into a cycle: maintain the howitzers, work out and chow down on palate-pleasing international field rations as they wait for the order to fire.
Martinez and his platoon are among 500 173rd Airborne Brigade soldiers that swooped into the Baltics this month on a mission to deter Russian aggression.
They have joined war games with local troops and new NATO battle groups deployed to the broader region — a buildup that collectively represents the alliance’s largest reinforcement of its eastern flank since the end of the Cold War.
“The hours are long, but the morale is high,” Martinez said from inside a camouflaged artillery enclosure within the mossy woods.
“We keep ourselves busy each day, taking care of our area and doing what we have to do. But then we get the order to fire, and we’ve been firing a lot. We’re loving it.”
The 173rd’s 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment is leading the U.S. effort in Bayonet Shield, which will culminate in the weeks ahead with a massive international live-fire drill.
In places like Pabrade, the brigade’s soldiers are working side-by-side with international forces as they train with high-powered weaponry. The crackle of .50-caliber shots repeatedly echoes from the target range into the woods where soldiers take shelter in tents.
In between the drills, one of the rewards for the soldiers in the Baltics is a break from American MRE monotony.
In Latvia, soldiers get traditional kebabs and meat dishes, while those camped out in Lithuania’s forests receive Canadian MREs, complete with a longer-lasting version of poutine, the Quebec specialty of mushy fries bathed in gravy and cheese.
Members of a multinational NATO battalion handle much of the cooking and have had the most interaction with U.S. troops.
Soldiers have relished the chance to mingle with their counterparts.
“We’re working with people from all over the world. We’re sleeping on mattresses. We have tents over our heads and we have controlled heating,” said Capt. Thomas Huens, 1-91 Headquarters troop commander. “Life’s about as good as it can get in the Army.”
For Army senior leaders, placing paratroopers in the Baltics was part of a plan to bolster allied presence in the region as Russia conducted its own large-scale war games just across the dividing line between Russia and NATO turf.
But for most of the soldiers on the ground, the geopolitics are an afterthought as they go about their daily tasks.
“Some days our guys are starting training at (9 a.m.), and working until (2 a.m.) the next morning.
They don’t have time to focus on anything else,” said Lt. Col. Hugh Jones, commander of the 173rd’s 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne). “We’re focusing on training and doing what we do. We are making the absolute most of our time here.”
As Russia began large military exercises on its western border, the U.S. Army was unloading tanks in Poland, the first time these military vehicles have arrived directly by sea.
The tanks, which arrived on Wednesday, are part of a routine troop swap. Soldiers and equipment from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kansas, are replacing the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division that has been in Europe for nine months.
The replacement is part of what the military calls a continuing “heel-to-toe” rotation to maintain a U.S. armored brigade in Europe.
As for the tanks, they typically are shipped to Germany and then taken by rail or truck to their next location.
Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command said using Poland’s port of Gdansk “helps test the Army’s capacity of the port, and to make sure that the Army knows how to operate inside Poland.”
The delivery includes 87 M1 Abrams tanks, 103 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 18 Paladin self-propelled Howitzers, and other trucks and equipment, according to U.S. European Command (EUCOM).
“The continuous presence of an armored brigade bolsters the collective defense capability of NATO,” EUCOM said. “EUCOM forces live, train, and fight alongside and partners from strategic positions that enable more timely and coordinated response if needed to defend Europe.”
The U.S. military rotation occurred as Russia began week-long military drills, called Zapad 2017, which are joint exercises with its ally Belarus.
According to the Russians, the drills involve fewer than 12,000 troops, just below the threshold that would require them to invite international observers. But, according to the U.S. and NATO, the drills could involve as many as 100,000 troops, making it one of the largest Russian exercises since the Cold War.
Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard Company H, 121st Infantry (Airborne) Long Range Surveillance Unit conducted an airborne insertion with British ‘C’ Coy, 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment as part of Exercise Noble Partner 2017. Noble Partner 2017 is a U.S. Army Europe-led exercise designed to support the training, progression, and eventual certification of Georgia’s 2nd Light Infantry Company’s contribution to the NATO Response Force.