Schweinfurt flexes combat capability muscle with NATO exercise
An Apache helicopter flown by a Dutch pilot departs Schweinfurt's Conn Airfield in Germany, Sept. 20, 2012, en route to Schwarzenborn, Germany as part of a raid exercise. About 1,200 Dutch, German and Danish troops set up camp on Conn Barracks earlier this month to participate in Peregrine Sword, a NATO exercise that will test the combat readiness of the 11th Air Maneuver Brigade within the Dutch armed forces.

SCHWEINFURT, Germany (Sept. 21, 2012) -- Despite its announced closure earlier this year, the U.S. Army garrison here still has something to prove: Pitted between closing and remaining operational, it can also host a large-scale NATO exercise in its own backyard.

Adjacent the four Chinook helicopters, six Apache helicopters and three CH-53 cargo-carrying helicopters, about 1,200 Dutch, German and Danish troops set up camp along the airfield on Conn Barracks earlier this month to participate in it what's been dubbed Peregrine Sword -- a NATO exercise that will test the combat readiness of the 11th Air Maneuver Brigade within the Dutch armed forces, according to a spokesman with the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Peregrine Sword is part of a larger computer-generated exercise headed by the 1st German Netherlands Corps, said Lt. Col. Pier Schipmolder, commander of the 11th Air Maneuver Brigade, whose brigade is headquartered out of Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the southern part of the Netherlands. In total, more than 6,000 troops and civilian staff members have taken part in an exercise spread over areas in Wildflecken, Hammelburg and Schwarzenborn.

All neighboring brigades are computer-generated, except for the 11th Air Maneuver Brigade, which for the past several weeks has run through the whole gamut of exercises to include raids, medical evacuations and infantry delivery.

"We go through the entire chain of events in all our exercises, which is not something we do often," Schipmolder said.

That USAG Schweinfurt has played host to the NATO military exercise is no indication that the garrison will become an enduring base, said Lt. Col. Michael Runey, Schweinfurt garrison commander, at an all-hands meeting last month.

Planning for Peregrine Sword began two years ago, well before the announcement to close the garrison down by October 2014.

No U.S. Army units have participated in the NATO exercise, which is scheduled to end Sept. 28, but staff here have been playing an active role to support the exercise both operationally and logistically.

Particularly useful have been garrison staff and their know-how to operate an installation with the convenient measures in place to focus on the mission, such as top-notch fueling stations and established environmental controls.

"The U.S. has been very helpful in getting us set up here," said Schipmolder. "They're taking good care of us."

Page last updated Mon September 24th, 2012 at 06:39