HOHENFELS, Germany -- Artillery fire, jets, and enemy convoys can all be distractions for Soldiers during personnel recovery operations. This is the time for Soldiers to be at their best as leaders.

It's the quiet and reserved Soldiers, who one might not necessarily think would want to take initiative that shine most during these moments.

According to 2nd Lt. Justin A. Marshall, an Observer Coach Trainer with Alder team for Saber Junction 16, these are the Soldiers who come out of their shell and are "the hard chargers to take action," and get things done.

Marshall, a quartermaster officer for Forward Support Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, out of Vilseck, Germany, is on site at Hohenfels, Germany, as an OCT for 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy.

SJ16 is the 173rd Airborne's combat training center certification exercise, and includes nearly 5,000 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations.

The simulated situations are meant to evaluate and prepare Soldiers and their units. SJ16 empowers junior leaders by providing opportunities to take initiative and demonstrate what it takes to be a great leader.

"It's important to empower junior leaders because they will be the leaders in the future," said Marshall. "A lot of these Soldiers who are used to just taking orders are now being given the chance… take initiative, and in turn, when they feel like they're worth something, they're gonna work harder for it as well."

Spc. Deseree S. Carr, a healthcare specialist with C Company, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, explains that instead of focusing on just one casualty, she was able to lead fellow Soldiers while providing medical coverage for A Company's convoy operation.

"I like it because to me it's the head part of the truck for medical evacuation," said Carr. "So you kinda get to know what's going on throughout the entire truck where you're not just focused on one thing."

Staff Sgt. Eugene R. Tarver, a motor transport operator for A Company, 173rd BSB, says that he is often eager to listen to junior enlisted Soldiers.

"I'm always open to hear from lower enlisted," said Tarver. "It has helped me as a leader to know that I don't have all the answers, some of my decisions have come from the ideas and input of lower enlisted."

Tarver himself was given the opportunity to serve above his grade during his platoon's vehicle movement.

"My role yesterday during the recovery ops was assistant convoy commander," said Tarver of his responsibility typically assigned to a sergeant first class. "I'm expected to assist the convoy commander in matters pertaining to any situation that should arise if the convoy commander isn't available or if I see a need to get control of a situation."

Second Lt. Heather M. Vague, a transportation officer for A Company, 173rd BSB explains that the future of the United States Army depends on junior Soldiers stepping up to lead their fellow Soldiers.

"We expect our junior leaders to be critical thinkers and take initiative in the absence of orders," said Vague. "This builds a strong foundation for our platoon, but also benefits the Army as they move up in the ranks and take their skills to another unit to teach others."

The exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, lasts from, March 31 through April 24, during which rotational units will receive guidance and training to ensure that all Soldiers are up to date on current standards for mission readiness, and junior leaders will have the tools and skills they need to be successful.

"Morale and readiness increases as junior leaders understand their task and purpose as a leader," said Vague. "We have to hold our junior leaders to a higher standard and empower them to be ready to conduct no-fail missions."