HOHENFELS, Germany -- Special operation forces conduct some of the most strenuous and sophisticated military operations in the world. SOF units are known to be highly trained and often better equipped than traditional soldiers. Yet one of their most valuable assets is very low-tech relationships.
"We don't fight alone," said Maj. Bobby Temple, officer in charge of the SOF Cell with the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. "We train and work together in a realistic environment that facilitates SOF capability development."
The 3rd Special Forces Group, together with the German 31st Airborne Regiment, conducted shaping operations during a conflict near the fictional Atropia/Ariana border as part of exercise Swift Response 16 at the Hohenfels Training Area, June 1-16, 2016.
"There was enemy air defense artillery systems that were prepared to destroy the 1st Brigade 82nd Division," said Temple. The SOF mission was locate and then destroy those enemy ADA systems, and enabled the jump to happen.
The exercise is one of the premier military training events for multinational airborne forces in the world. The training enhances the readiness of the 82nd Airborne's 1st Brigade Combat Team to conduct rapid-response, joint forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside European Allies and SOF organizations.
"Right now, as an allied and partnered force, everyone is trained at a level where they can operate on their own," said Temple. "However when we go on missions, in a real world event, we are always working together. We need to improve that capability because it becomes an extreme issue on the ground to not be able to communicate."
Something as simple as fueling a vehicle can turn into a major issue during a deployment when considering language barriers, differences in equipment and operating procedures. During Swift Response, SOF units improve interoperability with other American and Allied units they are likely to encounter during a real-world mission.
"You're talking the exact guys you'll be working with in country," said Temple. "We establish the scenario to have the two elements [SOF and conventional forces] working in a single environment. It's hitting the two birds; the primary piece is to have SOF and conventional forces integration, interoperability and interdependence, and the secondary piece is SOF capability development."
Here, U.S. SOF organizations have the opportunity to train with multinational SOF units and share best practices and procedures with each other. Although these operators are experts in their field, exchanging knowledge across nations is always beneficial.
"I think a myth might be that we're like shadow warriors… and that we're fully aware of every threat out there in the world," said Sgt. Maj. Timo Braese, with the German 31st Airborne Regiment. "The reality is… you still have to be very proficient and have that right mindset, and to do that you have to stay in training. This is why we're here."
The Hohenfels Training Area is flexible, and can mimic a real SOF mission environment. As global threats change, training objectives adapt. Unit members may move on, but relationships between units will continue being developed.
Even though there are many changes that may come, there is one certainty, "this is the future," said Braese. "We all have to move together and train together in order to accomplish common tasks."