LEST MILITARY TRAINING AREA, Slovakia -- As the smoke cleared, tank treads stopped spewing up mud and helicopter rotor blades faded into the distance.
Indiana Guardsmen, 2nd Calvary Regiment Soldiers, and fellow NATO allies: Czech Army, Polish Armed Forces, Hungarian Defense Forces, and the Ministry of Defense-Crisis Department and the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic, had successfully completed Slovak Shield 2016.
4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany and Chemical, Engineer, Military Police, aviation and support personnel from the Indiana National Guard all proved integral components of the multinational training exercise, which took place at Military Training Area Lest, Slovak Republic.
The exercise, which lasted from Oct. 6 to 13, involved more than 2,000 participants who took part in a computer-based exercise and a live exercise. Troops also conducted weapons, demolition and tactics training with coalition counterparts, with some troops training outside the scope of their normal duties.
"I'm fully aware of the demands and high expectations made on you during this exercise," said Gen. Milan Maxim, chief of the general Staff of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic.
"This exercise proved your ability to work in a multinational environment," he added. "And I've been informed that all of your duties have been executed with high standard results. I ask you to remember what you have achieved and learned from it."
During the closing ceremony, the exercise director told the joint force formation that their performance during exercise was that of a strong team and demonstrated a productive alliance.
"I've seen ... many different uniforms, heard different accents, but I can tell you we speak the same language of values, we speak the same the language of tactics," said Lt. Gen. Pavel Macko, Slovak Shield director and 1st deputy chief of the general staff of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic.
"I asked you to do three things on the very first day; the first one was to represent your nation, armed forces and your unit superbly. The second thing that I asked was for you to be professionals in your unit and dedicated to the mission," he continued.
"The third thing that I asked you was to create strong bonds, learn from each other, become friends, and I've seen it. You did it far beyond anyone's imagination or expectation."
During this year's Slovak Shield exercise, elements of 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is based out of Germany, integrated their troops into the overall exercise and joint training.
Capt. Matthew Maxcy, team outlaw and Outlaw Troop commander, 2 CR, said he considered it significant to be invited.
"It tells how dedicated we are to increasing interoperability and bringing all of the allies closer together from our part," Maxcy said. "But also on the part of the Slovak's and the other countries -- that they trusted us enough to reach out and say they wanted to work with us."
"We need to build these relationships because they could be useful in the future," he continued. "In whatever the next conflict we find ourselves in, we're going to find ourselves with another country to our right and to our left."
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.