VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, Republic of Georgia (May 28, 2015) -- More than 600 American and Georgian Soldiers wrapped up Exercise Noble Partner, a two-week training exercise, at the Vaziani training area, May 24.
The exercise, hosted by the Georgian 1st Infantry Brigade, included American paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and Soldiers from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division as part of the U.S.
Army's European Rotational Force.
The partnered exercise provided an opportunity for the United States to continue its training relationship with the Georgian armed forces, as the sponsor of Georgia's participation in the NATO Response Force, or NRF, a high-readiness force comprising land, air, sea, and special forces units capable of rapid deployment in the NATO security theater.
The NRF is designed to perform a wide variety of tasks including: immediate collective defense response capability before arrival of other forces; crisis management and peace support operations, and disaster relief and the protection of critical infrastructure.
"Regional safety comes from the Soldiers here, who are wearing the uniform," said Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili. "This training was an explicit step forward for Euro-Atlantic integration."
The training included combined squad-, platoon- and company-level training, including a field training exercise, multiple live-fire exercises and both classroom and practical learning. Another part of the training was for leaders at the military staff level, including command and control operations and working in a multinational environment.
"This exercise was another opportunity for Georgian and U.S. Soldiers to work alongside each other," said Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Europe. "We came together, overcame language barriers, developed training invested in our forces, and most importantly, strengthened the relationship between our countries."
The concept for the exercise was developed about two years ago when Georgia formally offered to contribute a light infantry company to the NRF for 2015 and 2016. An exercise was devised to implement then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's decision to reinvigorate U.S. land forces participation in the NRF and to rotate battalion task forces to Europe for training and exercise with European allies and partners.
"U.S. Army Europe is committed to training with our partners and allies," Gayler said. "Noble Partner is a reflection on that commitment and it is part of our engagement through Europe. We've made that commitment as we share the same security concerns as the countries with whom we train. [We] have dedicated ourselves to a mission to training and enhance the high readiness of our partners and allies, [in order] to increase interoperability so that we can responds quickly and effectively wherever needed."
Working with the Georgian armed forces in Georgia is a new experience for U.S. Army personnel, but working with Georgian soldiers is not. Both of the major U.S. participants, the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 3rd Infantry Brigade, as well as a mentorship team from the U.S. Georgian Army National Guard, reported deploying at some point in their careers with Georgian service members.
That point is not lost on the Georgian president.
"The Georgian servicemen have shown in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan, that they are rock-solid partners and stand strong for the cause of peace," Margvelashvili said. "We pride ourselves on the bravery, valor and professionalism shown by our Georgian soldiers all over the world."
The senior U.S. military officer agreed that the Georgian military partnership is exceptional and necessary.
"U.S. Soldiers have fought alongside Georgian armed forces for more than 15 years," Gayler said. "Georgia has proven, by the blood and sweat [its] soldiers have shed in those missions, its will and capability to conduct ... operations fully interoperable with the U.S. and its allies. Shared experiences, both on the battlefield and the training area, enable us to sustain our mutual efforts."
Besides the group of Soldiers, who trained together during the battlefield, U.S. logisticians worked with their allied and partnered peers to move more than 750 metric tons of military equipment across 650 nautical miles over the Black Sea, and then by rail through Georgia. It was a task, which highlighted the inherent flexibility of U.S. forces to rapidly respond to crises allowing for the right presence where and when needed.
"Exercise Noble Partner has proven that even over great distances our partnership is strong," Gayler said. "This incredible feat demonstrates not only the capabilities of allied and partnered cooperations, but validates the strategic efforts that we can accomplish together."
The closing ceremony, attended by the military and diplomatic community of Tbilisi, consisted of a combined live-fire exercise, which showed a cumulative example of what the two groups have learned together.
"We concluded this exercise with a demonstration of the capabilities and interoperability we have gained over the last three weeks," said Maj. Joshua B. Van Etten, the deputy operations officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the officer in charge of the American continent. "Georgian and American Soldiers fought side-by-side and executed a live-fire exercise that displayed the capabilities of our combined force. This exercise is a continuation of our long lasting partnership and we look forward to training with our Georgian partners in the future."
"Together we are building a strong Europe, made stronger in part by each members' contribution to training events like these, and the contribution of the Georgian government and armed forces over the last couple of weeks have been tremendous," Gayler said. "I look forward to more events like these...our commitment to our mutual relationship is stronger than ever."
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51-country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships built during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events, held in more than 40 countries each year, lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations throughout the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.