By Sgt. 1st Class Amy Wieser Willson, 116th Public Affairs Detachment, North Dakota National GuardApril 15, 2015
HOHENFELS, Germany (April 15, 2015) -- Allowing safe movement of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment's infantry squadrons to and through the battlefield takes careful training, refined skills and specialized equipment. That is where the Regimental Engineering Squadron comes in.
While well prepared in those areas, the squadron continually trains to refine its techniques. During April, Exercise Saber Junction 15 provides them the opportunity to train with multinational military members in a world-class training environment.
"I think this is a blessing to have this opportunity, to have this great training environment, to have the Allied forces with us, to be ready for any future operation. Anything could happen," said Staff Sgt. Marvin Blaise, acting 1st Platoon sergeant for Alpha Troop, Regimental Engineering Squadron.
Exercise Saber Junction 15, which includes more than 4,700 participants from 17 countries, prepares NATO and partner-nation armies for offensive, defensive and stability operations. The exercise takes place in Germany, Lithuania and Romania, with the majority of it taking place at the Hohenfels Training Area.
Much of the training during Exercise Saber Junction 15 is administered by observer controller trainer teams, or OCTs, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, or JMRC.
Maj. Robert Newbauer, executive officer and a battalion trainer for the JMRC's Raptor OCT Team, said the exercise encompasses five phases: arriving to the training station, vehicle and equipment preparation, situational training exercises, force-on-force exercises, and recovery and redeployment. Phase 3 encompasses eight days and kicked off, April 11.
"Teams design exercises and training events that the rotational units can exercise day after day to prepare the unit for force-on-force exercises in the fourth phase," Newbauer said.
During a recent breach lane exercise, which is part of Phase 3, a platoon of combat engineers with the Regimental Engineering Squadron headed north toward oppositional forces, whom had emplaced a mine field and wire obstacles as well as staged two armored vehicles and a dismounted squad to challenge the combat engineers, who are known as Sappers.
As they approached the obstacle, the Sappers used smoke to obscure their actions as they deployed a mine-clearing line charge, or MCLC.
Mounted on a trailer, the MCLC uses explosives to clear a swath of mine field about 14.5-by-100 meters.
Once cleared, an M1132 Stryker engineer squad vehicle equipped with an angled mine plow, followed by a Stryker with a lightweight mine roller, moved through the lane, clearing any remaining mines and emplacing markers to signal the safe area through which maneuver forces can travel.
"Once you create the conditions necessary for success, the maneuver forces are then able to integrate further with other arms in order to create the effect that they need on the battlefield - so, it's a team effort, but it's also essential to the early stages of the fight," said 1st Lt. Sebastian Smoak, 1st Platoon leader for Alpha Troop, Regimental Engineering Squadron, who was moving through the training lanes with his Soldiers.
It is not just the U.S. Soldiers benefiting from the training lane, though. Both Americans and Bulgarians were "supporting a company effort," said Newbauer, adding, "I think this training will build toward [the] interoperability that we're looking for when we get to force-on-force [exercises in Phase 4]."
The multinational training aims to support skill development at all levels. Blaise said his younger Soldiers likely do not yet realize the full benefits of being able to train in such an interactive and multinational environment delivered by JMRC.
"They're training. They're training hard. They're motivated," Blaise said. "In the future, they'll probably look at this as one of the greatest times of their lives."
Leaders expect Soldiers at all levels to take away not only better skills but also lessons on interoperability in a multinational environment.
"I think that it highlights the need for teamwork and partnership with our allies," Smoak said. "It shows that it really does take a combined effort."