POSTOJNA, Slovenia (Aug. 22, 2014) -- Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and their allies from various European nations conducted a physical-fitness competition here, Tuesday, in order to promote camaraderie with the start of combined exercise Immediate Response 14.

Immediate Response 14 is an exercise designed to deploy multinational forces in response to a disaster relief mission. The exercise also improves North Atlantic Treaty Organization interoperability between U.S. forces and participating nations to include Albania, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Montenegro, Kosovo, Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Slovenia. This year, there are more than 450 participants in the exercise.

"Ten partnered forces are represented here, and they all came together as a team in the last 48 hours," said Lt. Col. Michael T. Ripley, commander of the 173rd's Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "The intent is for all of us to compete as a multinational team, and then the team that wins, gets to lead the run back."

Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne represent the bulk of U.S. forces participating in the exercise. The 173rd is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Commands areas of responsibility.

Immediate Response 14 is not only a training exercise, it's aimed at continually forging new bonds between allies whose nations have deployed and trained together in Europe, and around the world.

"[This competition] was good for team-building and multi-partnering," said Sgt. 1st Class Gene Williams, brigade operations non-commissioned officer for the exercise. "I enjoyed the opportunity for all of us to get together for friendly competition against each other."

Each physical fitness exercise was devised to bring each team together and push them to their personal limits. Some of the exercises tested resiliency, and others were designed for pure strength.

"So far we've done a tire flips, sprints, a log race and we've got press-ups still to come," said British Army Capt. Jack Pullinger, Light Dragoon Reconnaissance Regiment, British Army.

Building camaraderie is the first step in training as one, stated Ripley. Over the next two weeks, Soldiers from the participating nations will continue to work together to build security assurance among NATO allies and partners in the region.

"Exercises such as Immediate Response 14, provide vital opportunities not only for multiple U.S. services to train as we fight, but also include integrated, total force training to ensure our national armed forces are interoperable and prepared to maintain regional security and stability," stated Ripley.