By Sgt. 1st Class Whitney R Hughes (Army National Guard)May 24, 2016
IZMIR, Turkey -- Sky Soldiers are no strangers to making their mark in history, especially in Europe. However, this week the paratroopers and their Turkish partners carved their names side-by-side in Asia's history.
Soldiers from A Company, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), along with U.S. Navy Sailors from the U.S.S. Donald Cook, are the first U.S. service members to participate in EFES 2016, Turkey's largest military exercise.
"I am very proud that the 173rd is the unit here to represent the U.S. Army, but at the end of the day it's all about building enduring relationships," said Maj. Gary Dales, battalion executive officer.
This year the training event began May 4, and includes about 5,000 military members from US, Turkey, UK, Poland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Qatar.
"The days of a fighting a war with one country are over, so we need our partners," said the U.S. Army Europe Operations Sgt. Maj. Necati Akpinar. Akpinar, a U.S. Soldier and Turkish native.
Upon arrival Soldiers conducted a Command Post Exercise, a simulation where leaders practice strategic planning. Last week, they began training together in the field on everything from patrolling to demolition. And this week they will practice multifaceted operations that require the nations to perform together during both air and amphibious assaults.
"The biggest thing is their ability to interact and interoperate with other nations," said Sgt. 1st Class Zachery Rieck, engineer company platoon sergeant. "It's hard to take a 19 or 18 year old kid from America and throw them into a group of Polish, German, or Turkish allies; they are not used to that, we are not used to that as Americans. So getting them that cultural growth is the biggest measure of success we can have here."