Postojna, Slovenia -- The sounds of gunfire reinforce a sense of urgency as soldiers race to set up radio and satellite communications with their higher headquarters, establishing mission command like their predecessors before them.
Paratroopers from Charlie Company, 54th Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade and Slovenian Army's 1st Brigade Signal Company trained together to enhance their communication skills during Exercise Raven Strike 17 held in Slovenia from Jan. 30 -- Feb. 9, 2017.
Since 2014, the two signal companies have conducted quarterly communications training, switching between Vicenza, Italy and Pocek, Slovenia, and continuously learning from one another.
"The ability to training with our Signal peers and share techniques, tactics and procedures (TTPs) is extremely beneficial to strengthen our partnership and the alliance," said Sgt. Christopher Jackson, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 54th BEB.
Over ten days, the two companies focused their training on tactical and technical skills, building each day's training upon lessons learned from the previous day. The weapons familiarization, stress shoots, and land navigation helped build camaraderie between the two forces.
"As brigade signal companies, our personnel strength and equipment are very similar," said 1st Sgt. William Fleming, Charlie Company, 54th BEB. "The companies often deploy in small teams and they must take initiative and execute the mission."
Slovenian and U.S. soldiers bridged a more than 200km gap between Pocek training area and Del Din in Vicenza, Italy by setting up a high frequency (HF) communication system.
"Training in Europe is a great experience," said Staff Sgt. Enrique Luevano, Retrans Team Chief. "We have the unique opportunity share ideas and overcome challenges together to further enhance our beyond-line-of-sight communication capabilities."
Force-on-force attacks and ambushes also played an important role throughout the training, according to Fleming. TTPs were developed, critiqued, and shared between Slovenian and American forces. The teams were continuously evaluated on their reactions to challenging and unexpected circumstances.
At the end of the exercise, the Slovenian Soldiers hosted a cultural day and took the U.S. Paratroopers on a tour of the Slovenian Military History Museum. There, the Paratroopers learned about Slovenian military history and the significance of the NATO Alliance.
"It was important to not only train together, but also to share our culture, and learn from our history," said Cpt. Franc Rogina, Commander of 1st Brigade Signal Company, Slovenian Army.
Raven Strike is the final exercise leading up to Allied Spirit VI, taking place in Germany in March. During Allied Spirit VI, Soldiers from 12 countries, including United States, Slovenia, and Canada will work together as a cohesive force under the command of the Latvian Land Forces Brigade to test their tactical and technical skills.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting forces to conduct the full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Commands areas of responsibility.