SLUNJ, Croatia -- Flags from two nations rustled slightly in an occasional cool morning breeze as Soldiers stood tall in formation for the opening ceremony of Puma 16 at Military Training Area Eugen Kvaternik on Oct. 12, 2016.

Iron Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army, joined 2nd Mechanized Battalion "Puma" of the Guard Armored-Mechanized Brigade, Croatian Land Forces, on their stomping grounds to build upon joint readiness, hone interoperability and share lessons learned from each others experiences.

Capt. William Vanderlip III, Commander for Iron Troop, opened the ceremony with a few words to the Soldiers, sharing his anticipation for the upcoming event.

"It is always an outstanding opportunity to work alongside our NATO Allies in a dynamic, challenging, friendly environment," he stated. "I can assure you that the Soldiers and leaders of Iron Troop are prepared and excited to participate in this event. Combat readiness is our Regiment's and our Troop's number one priority and exercise Puma is an ideal event to build our readiness."

The three week exercise will include a Croatian led squad live fire where the forces will react to contact, secure a breach, react to indirect fire and conduct Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense fire training.

"We have the opportunity to train interoperability between our two NATO Armies leveraging the capabilities of each nation to the maximum potential," Vanderlip added. "Between the firepower and mobility of the mechanized company to the speed and indirect fire of Iron Troop, Puma 16 will prove to be an exciting and productive field problem."

Also, on the schedule is a force on force field training exercise in which Iron Troop will attack a Croatian Coy to try to seize key terrain from them. Next, a platoon live fire will certify the Iron Troop platoons in conducting a fire mission and maneuvering while dismounted.

To round out Puma 16 training, the Soldiers will shoot Close Quarter Maneuver qualification tables before moving on to the shoot house to conduct Close Quarter Battles.

To officially announce the start of the exercise, Lt. Col. Zeljko Marinov, Commander of 2nd Mechanized Battalion also stepped up to the podium to welcome all participants.

"I am really honored, today, to have an opportunity to address you at the beginning of this great training event," Marinov said. "It is so good to see this strong formation of two proud units committed to bringing their training proficiency to the next higher level."

"Our planners made a great effort over the past few months to make this exercise demanding, challenging and very interesting, so we can prepare ourselves for possible scenarios the future (may) bring to our door step," he added.

Puma 16 is another NATO exercise that 2nd Cavalry will participate in to strengthen the partnered relationship with Croatia and help each other deter common threats.