HOHENFELS, Germany (Jan. 24, 2016) -- More than 2,400 service members from seven nations are conducting tactical training in the cold and snowy conditions of Bavaria, Germany, during Exercise Allied Spirit IV.

This multinational exercise, headquartered by the Italian Garibaldi Brigade, partners units from Europe and North America for more than two weeks of realistic, high intensity training. The exercise prepares participants for various combat scenarios, such as conventional forces engagements, guerrilla warfare and reacting to chemical attacks. The purpose is to train brigade and battalion level commands - should they encounter such scenarios on real world battlefields.

Soldiers, from Canada, Germany, Latvia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States, will participate in this year's exercise. Italy's Garibaldi Brigade has taken the helm of the exercise, giving the famous Italian infantry unit a rare opportunity to lead a multinational task force at an American installation in the heart of Europe.

"This provides us a lot of opportunities to train with our allies and partners," said Lt. Col. Gennaro Troise, Garibaldi Brigade's chief public affairs officer. "The most important thing is for all of us to stay together, to cooperate with other nations. This is a multinational environment."

While the Garibaldi Brigade will serve as the brigade headquarters, an element of the Michigan Army National Guard will serve as lead advisor in the higher command, or HICON.

he Michigan element, in conjunction with the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, or JMRC, exercise control cell, will direct the battle, add some uncertainty and adjust the fight to achieve the Rotational Training Units', or RTUs', training goals.

Participating U.S. Army units include the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The opposing forces, or OPFOR, for the exercise will include 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, based at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, Hohenfels.

Five Army National Guard elements are also participating, led by the Louisiana National Guard with more than 120 Soldiers. The Michigan National Guard is providing nearly 50 troops while Guard units from Ohio, Washington, D.C., and California will provide critical enablers to the exercise.

"We want to push them from their comfort zone and facilitate their learning," said Michigan National Guard Col. Clark C. Barrett, commander of NATO Rapid Deployment Corps-Hohenfels, or NRDC-H. "It is our hope to not only learn from our allies, but also demonstrate the United States' overall support of the NATO mission."

The exercise focuses on the interoperability and integration of multinational partners.

"With the Garibaldi Brigade serving as the headquarters element, Allied Spirit provides a unique opportunity for us as NATO allies to become stronger and more agile," said Brig. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, and the exercise's senior trainer. "When allies train together in realistic, challenging tactical conditions, we are able to develop levels of interoperability that provide our leaders with options during times of crisis."

Troise, on behalf of Garibaldi Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Claudio Minghetti, said the Italians are honored to lead.

"It's important for us to implement our process," Troise said. "We may have a different approach to problems. This opportunity is important to show our experiences, and improve on them."

The Allied Spirit series of exercises is only one of about a dozen major exercises U.S. Army Europe conducts annually at JMRC. Hohenfels hosts other exercises like Combined Resolve that similarly join multiple nations for interoperability training. JMRC boasts a 40,000-acre training facility, with vast ranges, and steep and forested terrain that can replicate many different environments. For these reasons, the facility has the reputation for being one of the most challenging training sites operated by the U.S. Army.

The Hohenfels Training Area, or "The Box," as Soldiers refer to it, is where participants face the elements, such as extreme cold weather and snow, and encounter JMRC's varied terrain and obstacles. The line units test their ability to respond to simulated threats, while all levels of command are challenged with decision making and overall operational planning. Both levels are observed by coaches and trainers.

"This is a great opportunity to learn the operations of a high level headquarters and build individual skills," Barrett said. "I want everyone to learn daily and go home knowing that they are better for it, and so are the units training in the Box."

In lieu of current threats, Allied Spirit promotes a notable cause, Barrett said. The NATO Allies show they can work together to resolve potential threats, safeguarding the freedom and security of its members through political and military means, which is a fundamental principle of the most successful alliance in history.

"Europe is experiencing lots of unanticipated change - economic crisis, refugee influx, etc., in the last few years. Some of that change has the potential to spark violence or humanitarian crises," Barrett said. "When living together in a global community, we strengthen our security when we stand together."

The Allied Spirit series of exercises originated in January of 2015. Troops, from Hungary, Serbia, Czech Republic, Georgia and the United Kingdom, have participated in previous Allied Spirit exercises. Allied Spirit IV concludes Feb. 5.