By Sgt. Eric Roberts, 131st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (Alabama National Guard)May 28, 2014
HOHENFELS, Germany (May 28, 2014) -- In remote Bavaria, the sound of simulated battle echoes. The armies of the U.S. and Romania join forces to train. At the heart of the training lies one of the U.S. Army's most versatile forces.
The 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, out of Hohenfels has a slightly different mission than the normal infantry battalion.
Sgt. 1st Class Roberto Martinez of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment says the unit is known as the opposing force, or the OPFOR.
"On a day-to-day basis, we are training like a regular infantry battalion, but we are used to replicate a conventional Army, and also insurgent forces to train the U.S. forces and NATO partners," said Martinez.
"OPFOR is not that well known, even in Germany. I was taking my daughter to her softball game at Wiesbaden, and someone asked me what I was wearing," said Martinez. "We wear black. It is a tradition. We want to stand out. We grow beards, wear civilian clothes, combine tactics ... we do whatever it takes to give us and those who are training with us a better reach," said Martinez.
Martinez explained that one of his purposes is to work with the OPFOR Academy, a place in which other units, such as the National Guard and NATO partners are trained in tactics to become OPFOR.
On May 17, Romania finished the OPFOR Academy and just two day later, on May 19, under the command of Col. Adrian Popescu, the Romanian 300th Infantry Mechanized Battalion took command of OPFOR as Task Force Greva during Combined Resolve II.
Combined Resolve II is a U.S. Army Europe-led, multi-national exercise at the Joint Multinational Training Command's Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr Training Areas, being conducted May 15 - June 30, 2014. The exercise includes more than 4,000 participants, and will train the U.S. Army's European Rotational Force, comprised of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division, alongside allies and partners from 15 European countries.
In addition to the Romanian forces under Popescu's command, he oversees the Army Reserve 364th Sapper Engineers from Dodge City, Kan., and elements of the 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment, of the California Army National Guard and the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment (OPFOR).
"For me, being in command is great, and especially for my men. I am honored. I am thankful to the OPFOR Academy for the opportunity," said Popescu.
According to Capt. Benjamin Girard, commander of A Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, the quick turnaround from student to teacher is key for interoperability between partner forces in training and on the battlefield.
"Multinational forces are the way forward for U.S. forces," said Girard.
Girard acknowledged that even though the Romanian command is just for the exercise, it builds confidence in his troops and in the partner forces for future endeavors.
Martinez says allowing the student to become the teacher is the exact purpose of OPFOR.
"It almost builds a new army on both sides. It combines different tactics. We train them to train. Then they train us to train. We learn from the Romanians," said Martinez.
"Working with the best provides the best results," said Romanian Maj. Robert Stanciuc. "The language barrier we have passed, the common ground is procedures."
"It has been pretty seamless with the multinational brigade," said Capt. Serguei Louchnihou, 1st Battalion, 160 Infantry Regiment, California National Guard. "So far I have seen little difference. I am impressed."
"It (the multinational task force) gives Soldiers the training they need to be more complete. This is key," added Louchinihou. "We are going to work with multinational forces in the future all the time."
"Every single multinational experience is unique," added Stanciuc.
Girard said that the difference in equipment and language is small, but the mission is possible because Soldiers share one language that is not spoken.
"We share the common language of doctrine," said Girard.
For more information on Combined Resolve II, go to the official exercise website at www.eur.army.mil/jmtc/CombinedResolve or check out the exercise on social media by searching for #CombinedResolve or visiting the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command's social media @7thArmyJMTC.