GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Leaders and staff members from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, worked alongside a NATO Ally during a brigade-level combat training event for the first time since deploying to Europe in January.

The command post exercise conducted with the Romanian 811th Infantry Battalion from May 15-17 at Grafenwoehr Training Area acted as a rehearsal for the U.S. Army Europe-led Combined Resolve VIII multinational exercise that will feature 10 days of defensive, offensive, and stability operations in early June.

It was the first time brigade planners and staff members from four 3/4 ABCT battalions worked directly with Allied forces in a complex scenario geared at defending a European nation from an attack. The training directly addresses the brigade's role as a deterrent to aggression in eastern Europe and how it might respond if called to defend a NATO Ally.

"The training was very quick, but in about three days the 811th had the privilege of working with the Americans in order to develop a battle plan and to be part of a combined-arms rehearsal during the pre-planning. Then executing according to the brigade commander's order was a very good experience," said Lt. Col. Tudor Bivolaru, commander, 811th Inf. Bn.

The computer-simulated fight served as the precursor to live force-on-force combat training during Combined Resolve VIII, which will include more than 3,400 participants from 10 nations. Albania, Finland, Hungary, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine and the United States will all have units participating in the live exercise. The exercise, which will take place at Hohenfels Training Area from May 27 to June 12, will prepare forces in Europe to operate together to promote stability and security in the region.

"The command post exercise allowed us to integrate all of our war-fighting functions with our Allies and our own organic battalions," said Capt. Hank Mackey, 3/4 ABCT assistant operations officer. "It really helped us work through our systems to get a good repetition prior to conducting our force-on-force training in Hohenfels."

Mackey worked directly with Romanian planners as a liaison to his brigade. It was his first time seeing how a European counterpart plans and executes a fight.

"We hit some speed bumps along the way in terms of learning each other's reporting procedures, but it was a great starting point. The more we worked together, the more seamless we became," he said.

During the exercise, the Romanian staff members had the opportunity to participate in an operations order brief, a fire support rehearsal and a combined-arms rehearsal. The events integrated the Romanian battalion fully into a U.S. armored brigade combat team's battle planning process.

"It was a very good experience and very good opportunity to help us identify my staff's weaknesses and strengths. In the following days, we'll fix them all before bringing the entire battalion to Hohenfels for Combined Resolve VIII," said Bivolaru.

The exercise also proved meaningful to a junior leader who has never worked with a foreign military before.

A few months ago, 2nd Lt. Elliot Johnson, an assistant fire support officer with 3/4 ABCT, was learning tactical doctrine the U.S. Army field artillery schoolhouse. Now he's living it, working with European Allies as his very first brigade serves as USAREUR's current rotational ABCT under Atlantic Resolve.

"This is something I've never done before, and I helped the Romanians plan their portion of the operations order and was responsible for determining how to use their indirect fires during the simulated fight," Johnson said.

"As a battalion integrating into our brigade for the first time, it was important for me to ensure the 811th understood the common operating picture and that we understood the Romanian part of the plan. The integration was very smooth, their planners were able to clearly communicate what they were doing during the fight," Johnson said.

While working with U.S. forces is nothing new to Bivolaru, who has fought alongside Americans twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan, the opportunity to join forces in a more conventional fight is a great learning experience.

"I look forward to working again with our American friends and also with the NATO Allies that will participate in Combined Resolve VIII so that we can practice fighting together against a common threat. No single nation is able to fight a battle by itself; together we will always be stronger," he said.