HOHENFELS, Germany -- As a relentless opposing force counters each maneuver and observe controllers critique every decision, troopers assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment, participate in Saber Junction 17 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, April 25 to May 19, 2017. This exercise includes nearly 4,500 participants from 13 NATO and European partner nations.

As the combat training certification exercise for the regiment, Saber Junction 17 tests troop operational and tactical decision making skills in order to assess the formations readiness to conduct unified land operations. However, for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment troopers, along with participants from several NATO and partner nations, the test here is termed simply "the box".

Inside the box and on the line, Soldiers are tested on every level from flexibility in their positions to maintaining equipment and morale while operating in the often-unpredictable weather and challenging terrain found in the deeply wooded training area here.

Halfway through the rigorous exercise, energy management is key along with building on the comradery that duress breeds.

For Spc. Brandon Casey, a machine gunner assigned to Iron Troop, 3/2, that comradery is easy to come by with a simple phrase in a native tongue.

"Jak sie masz," Casey says to a Polish Soldier operating a radio near his firing position, a phrase that translate to "How's it going?"

Growing up in Chicago, Casey learned Polish from his family. He often offers the casual greeting to Polish Soldiers he encounters. Each exchange follows the same look of surprise by the receiving Polish Soldier, after hearing a U.S. Soldier speak Polish, followed by a smile and a momentary reprieve from the gauntlet of the box.

"The tactical scenario started the moment we crossed the Autobahn delivering a constant near-peer, rough and extremely realistic aggressor," said U.S. Army Capt. Alex Rubliar, platoon leader, Kronos Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. "You can't get better training than this."

Wrapping up the first phase of the exercise, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment shifts from a defensive posture to an offense. This transition enhances troop and leader ability to conduct land operations within different postures helping to meet an over arching challenge for Soldiers with deployment experience in a counterinsurgency, or COIN, environment.

"For the Soldiers that have deployed previously, the near-peer fight here is a distinct shift in focus and priorities from COIN operations. The scenario here sets the fight in a sovereign state with a viable government able to handle humanitarian needs - that is no longer our focus," said Rubliar. "It's a mentality shift and a paradigm shift in training but the fundamentals stay the same."

Over a week into the exercise, Troopers have encountered a skillful aggressor with armor, air and electronic warfare capabilities. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment Commander Col. Patrick Ellis requested one of the toughest scenarios yet, and that is exactly what JMRC has delivered. Success for the regiment here will focus on interoperability and developing a common operating picture.

"We're working along side British tankers, Polish and Italian Soldiers along with German locals staged in notional towns coming together to share intelligence and pass along high value targets with extreme reliability," said Rubliar.