As Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, continues to conduct partnered exercises in Estonia, one of their four platoons looks a little bit different. They wear different uniforms, speak a different language and use different weapons. While not unheard of in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, something about this partnership stands out: the relationship between two leaders currently serving in Battle Company.
Surrounded by Americans at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, now 2nd Lt. Gregor Lisjak, a Slovenian platoon leader, says he struggled when he first began his career as a cadet in 2009.
"It was rough at first," Lisjak said. "I was not as shy as some of my peers but there were many challenges that I faced moving from Slovenia to the United States. I endured several embarrassing moments as I tried to understand and assimilate to American culture. But once I got in a rhythm, I worked very hard."
Lisjak leads 1st Platoon, 2nd Company, 10th Infantry Regiment in Slovenia. However, his Slovenian platoon currently operates attached to Battle Company, a partnership set to continue for the remainder of Atlantic Resolve.
Coincidentally when 2nd Lt. Connor Cabrey, fire support officer, B. Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt., arrived at West Point two years later, he spent his first year learning from the more experienced Lisjak.
"Whether it was cadet life, Army life or something more personal, Greg was always someone that I trusted," Cabrey said. "I had a great deal of respect for him and he taught me a lot, especially that first year."
Lisjak and Cabrey graduated in 2013 and 2015 respectively, and stayed in contact over the course of several years.
"I did not expect to keep in contact with many of my classmates," Lisjak says. "I have been surprised that so many of my friends have ended up serving in the U.S. Army in Europe. It has been awesome to see them and stay close with them."
Cabrey and Lisjak exchanged messages in July when they both discovered they would be working together during Atlantic Resolve.
"It's pretty strange, honestly," says Cabrey. "Working alongside someone you respected so much who now considers you their equal. It feels pretty great that I can look at this guy that I used to look up to and offer something of value to him as the Battle Fire Support Officer."
A good one at that, Cabrey scored highest in the Brigade during the fire support certification process, a feat for which Lisjak jokingly takes credit.
"I have a lot of respect for Connor," Lisjak said. "He has come a long way in his development. I never imagined a younger guy from the U.S., who lived across the hall from me would be giving me advice as a platoon leader to employ assets in Estonia."
Cabrey adds that the most valuable lesson he has learned from Lisjak was watching how he projects intensity and professionalism while making himself approachable as a leader.
Visibly thankful for his mentorship and friendship, Cabrey says, "Working together in Estonia has been awesome. We will definitely stay in contact."
Battle Company is currently forward deployed in Estonia as a part of Atlantic Resolve, conducting several live fire exercises and other partnered training. The 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. is also training with host nations and other NATO allies in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Over the course of the next few months, "The Rock" will be conducting several major partnered training operations, culminating with a Company Live Fire Exercise in December.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency
Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct a full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
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.