Through the Eyes of Our Soldiers

Article excerpt

U.S. Army Europe

The soldiers of U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) lead our Army in conducting events with international forces, reflective of the increasing importance our national security strategy and Army leaders place on building partner capacity. Training events - ranging from military-to-military exchanges to combined, joint exercises - routinely include forces from other nations, resulting in enhanced interoperability between militaries as, well as personal and professional growth for our soldiers and their foreign counterparts.

First Sgt. Armondo Saldana, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment (2SCR), a veteran of numerous multinational events beginning with his deployment in 1999 to Macedonia, understands the value of this training. "The reality is American forces will be everywhere and anywhere every time something flares up," says ISG Saldana. "The more experience and exposure soldiers can get with other nations will always benefit us in the long run." His thoughts reflect those of many USAREUR soldiers, regardless of rank, military occupational specialty or unit of assignment.

In a typical year, USAREUR soldiers conduct approximately 200 theater security cooperation events and 25 joint and combined exercises focused on improving capabilities and interoperabilitv and developing lasting partnerships between the United States and other nations. These events include: mission rehearsals; training exercises; hosting conferences such as the annual Conference of European Armies for Noncommissioned Officers; and inviting soldiers from many nations to attend the Seventh Armv NCO Academy. There are also one-of-a-kind events - this year, USAREUR soldiers helped strengthen ties with Russia, marching into history as troops from the Baumholder, Germany-based 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team became the first Americans to participate in the Victory Day Parade in Moscow's Red Square.

The majority of training events are conducted at the Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC), Grafenwöhr, Germany. JMTC is the premier U.S., NATO and coalition training location, integral to preparing forces for deployments to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. JMTCs capability to export fully instrumented training to other areas, such as training sites in Romania and Bulgaria, makes training possible anywhere. JMTC also used its full capabilities in preparing the 2SCR for its current deployment to Afghanistan.

The 2nd Stryker Cavalrv Regiment's soldiers conducted several training events in Romania and Bulgaria during summer 2009. Training ranged from familiarization with weapons systems to squad-level operations. These events introduced participants to the complexities of working alongside soldiers from other nations, an especially valuable experience for junior soldiers who had not yet experienced coalition operations. "Some soldiers might be intimidated or even a little scared at the prospect of working with NATO or foreign forces," says ISG Saldana, "but now they know what to expect."

The 2SCR executed its mission rehearsal exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC), JMTCs maneuver training center, in Hohenfels, Germany. During the mission rehearsal exercise, forces from Croatia, Poland and Slovenia joined the 2SCR as the blue force, and soldiers from the Czech Republic replicated Afghan security forces. Using foreign forces as role-players accurately replicates the challenges of the ISAF mission. Since few foreign soldiers spoke English, the 2SCR soldiers learned to communicate through translators, developed simple standard operating procedures understandable by all nationalities and gained knowledge of the other nations' military capabilities. Highlighting the importance of this training in preparation for deployment, ISG Saldana says, "We might be on the front line someday with these guys, and knowing what they can and can't do is vital. …