HOHENFELS, Germany -Europe's premier training facilities, the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command's (JMTC) Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas, were a temporary home to more than 7,000 people from around the world for a historic training event, during which two brigades' simultaneously prepared for deployment in support of counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, along with service members from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, The U.S. Marine Corps and more than 500 soldiers from Britain, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Romania and France, and hundreds of department of the Army civilians, participated in a complex and challenging training environment designed to replicate the real-world operational environment.

An exercise of this magnitude, effectively double the size of a typical rotation at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, and took some planning to execute.

"The 173rd ABCT and 12th CAB are organizations with some tremendous capabilities," said Maj. Chad Callis, chief of plans for JMRC. "We anticipated that it would be challenging to develop a training scenario which would stress both brigades. Additionally, for the 173d, we anticipated that it would be difficult to adequately replicate the operational environment which exists in Afghanistan."

With those challenges came some lessons learned, some outside assistance and some thinking outside the proverbial box, be that box either the normal means of operations in the organization or the traditional training area of JMRC.

"This rotation required assistance from units across USAREUR to provide augmentation to JMRC in order to cover both brigade combat teams simultaneously," Callis continued. "JMRC is organized to provide Observer Controller Trainer coverage for one brigade at a time, so this was truly a team effort."

"In addition, the JMTC was able to leverage the use of all its components in training both brigades for their respective deployments," said Callis. "The facilities at the Joint Multinational Simulations Center were used for a command post exercise for the 12th CAB, and the rotation utilized training areas at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, as well as in Schweinfurt, Bamberg, Amberg, and Obervietach."

But did it work'

"We met all our training objectives," said 173d ABCT Commander, Colonel James H. Johnson. "Each day we improved as an organization and each day our Sky Soldiers improved their skills. Our biggest challenge was operating our communications architecture. Due to constraints on operating our communication systems in Italy (where the Brigade is normally headquartered) we rarely have the opportunity to perform all our communications tasks as a full Brigade Combat Team."

While the calendar played a large part in the decision to train two brigades simultaneously putting infantrymen and helicopters together fit like a glove.

"The decision was related to the deployment dates for each brigade but it provided a unique training opportunity for each unit," said Callis. "The 173rd ABCT was able to conduct realistic mission planning for the use of rotary wing aviation. Its companies were able to conduct multiple air assault operations. The 12th CAB took advantage of the opportunities to work with ground units and was able to refine its SOPs, as well as increase the capabilities of its crews."

And while nearly every rotation at JMRC involves soldiers from other nations, this one used more than usual from more nations.

"The troops from other nations provide a tremendous opportunity for U.S.units to train with the multinational partners they will often see when deployed," explained Callis. "Using units that are not U.S. is another way that JMRC replicates the reality that the soldier's will face when deployed.

For the 173rd ABCT paratroopers, working with the Afghan National Army, Afghan Security Forces and NATO forces will be a daily occurrence.

"JMRC was very fortunate to have these forces on hand for this rotation, filling different roles. To the US units involved, they learned many lessons from having to coordinate and conduct operations with these forces. The multinational units received valuable experience executing tactical missions against a very capable insurgency, portrayed by 1-4 Infantry," he said.

Both JMRC and the 173d worked with unit's currently serving in Afghanistan to ensure that the training here was as realistic as possible.

"JMRC designed a scenario which utilized the latest guidance from the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force as it pertains to the rules of engagement currently in use in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the scenario placed greater emphasis on training the non-lethal processes the units undertake in order to conduct counter insurgency operations," said Callis.

This guidance and training in counterinsurgency operations was specifically what the 173rd brigade commander had in mind.

"The 173rd ABCT deployed to JMRC to prepare for deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom," said Johnson. "Our objectives were to operate as a fully-engaged brigade combat team in a counter-insurgency mission."

For more information about Army training in Europe and the premiere overseas combat maneuver training center , log on to the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command at <a href="http://www.hqjmtc.army.mil"> www.hqjmct.army.mil

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16