For the last four years, the Joint Multinational Training Command has hosted Saber Junction, during which Soldiers engage in combat maneuver training with U.S. Allies and partners in a multinational environment. JMTC certifies the training through U.S. Army Europe for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Saber Junction, which features approximately 5,000 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations, is intended to promote cooperation and fortify international bonds.
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Luebbering, an automotive platoon sergeant for the 1035th SMB, understands the importance of this joint operations training. "It really helps our trust because we get to work hand and hand with these nations that we don't normally get to work with. It also provides good morale."
Throughout the course of their time here, these National Guardsmen have established working relationships with their foreign counterparts. Not only is this effective for the short-term, but it also bodes well for future cohesion.
"They'll be able to say that they've worked with the United States before, and they are very easy to work with," said Luebbering. "We'll be able to set up that trust very easily."
The Guardsmen are working alongside active duty Soldiers from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's Consolidated Maintenance Activity, supporting a large percentage of the Hohenfels Training Center's vehicles and equipment.
"The 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment is the permanent OPFOR (opposing force) for JMRC," said 2nd Lt. Jacob Schroeder, the ground support equipment platoon leader with the 1035th SMB. "They have a lot of track vehicles like Bradleys and armored personnel carriers; so our guys are working alongside them to help with their maintenance because they get a lot of traffic."
With training in a different geographical location, Soldiers are given opportunities to train with equipment in environments they aren't accustomed to.
Spc. Aaron Neff, a generator mechanic with the 1035th SMB, was able to use a blowtorch in the motor pool-- something he had never done in the states. "Getting down, using the torch for the first time was definitely nerve-wrecking. Once you get used to it, it's nothing."
The experience the Soldiers gain by working in an unfamiliar setting with U.S. Allies and partners builds confidence that they will draw from later in their military careers.
"If we do get deployed we will be working with other national forces," Neff said. "It'll be good to have an idea of how they operate so whenever we do go on a mission, it'll go by smoothly."
Not only have the Guardsmen built camaraderie with their military counterparts, but it has also been extended to the local civilians.
"This morning we had a barbeque with them (German civilians)," Schroeder said. "They were showing us how they marinate their meat and how they cook them. Those things are really valuable pieces of cultural understanding that we wouldn't get in the states."
According to Luebbering, Soldiers coming from the U.S. have little experience or knowledge of how the Army operates in conjunction with other nations. The opportunity to be a part of this training is invaluable.
"This is almost a once in a lifetime experience for us to work with NATO forces," Luebbering said. "They get to really see what we can do and it's an experience I'll never forget."