LUNEBURG HEATH, Germany -- Military training can be executed to sustain combat readiness, promote esprit de corps, refine standard operating procedures or even to validate a training area for NATO forces to potentially conduct future exercises.
Occupying a range that was established in the early 1930's is a tank platoon with the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, conducting bilateral mechanized training and gunnery during exercise Panzer Thrust with the 401st Mechanized Infantry Battalion, during the German Exercise Haffschild, at training area Bergen-Hohne, May 15-17, 2017.
Bergen-Hohne training area is located in the southern part of Lüneburg Heath, in the state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany. This military training facility, used by German forces and other NATO nations, covers an area of 284 square kilometers (70,170 acres).
"Military training area Bergen is the largest training area in Germany for mechanized weapon systems, and it is in the NATO foot print," said German Lt. Col. Jan Tilmann, Commander, 401th Mechanized Infantry Bn. "There is a strong relationship between NATO nations and this training area. The organization that is running this training area has a lot of experience with NATO forces, so it is not unusual that international NATO soldiers are here."
"This training area has the capabilities to conduct live-fire exercises up to the battalion level," he said while highlighting the importance of validating the training area.
Maintaining combat readiness is a top priority for the 3rd ABCT. Training alongside NATO Allies and partners, as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, provides unique opportunities to sharpen skills and sustain the ability to shoot, move and communicate as a combined arms team.
"What is important in my mind are the offensive capabilities and the defensive capabilities, to actually conduct live-fires," said Capt. Kyle D. Pernelli, Commander, Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 68th Armor Regt., 3ABCT. "With that being said, this training facility definitely has those capabilities, and it enables us to conduct maneuvers like this. Prior to the Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise we executed a platoon live-fire event where we were able to certify this platoon, day and night, for this combined training."
Pernelli and his tank platoon rotated from the Baltics to participate in the German led CALFEX. At the end of exercise Panzer Thrust, the tank platoon will conduct onward movement to Grafenwoehr Training Area to consolidate with the rest of Bravo Company and prepare for the multi-national exercises scheduled for this summer.
Continuously rotating Soldiers through the European theater showcases deterrence by demonstrating an ability to rapidly deploy capabilities to conduct combined training as need.
"During training here, whether it is dry runs, live-fires or major exercises, we can test and check our standard operating procedures," said Tilmann. "Here the combined idea is on the ground, so it is almost perfect to incorporate U.S. forces, due to the fact, that this training facility has hosted international Allies and partners from a lot of nations. In my opinion, to continue to improve NATO capabilities, it is significant to conduct combined exercises here on NATO soil."
Tilmann also expressed his excitement about having the chance to train with an allied force and the benefits that come with that opportunity.
"Having the opportunity to host U.S. Soldiers has been a great experience," he said. "We mixed up the platoons, which allowed the American armored soldiers and our German mechanized infantry soldiers to work very closely together. Therefore, they couldn't just use American tactics or German tactics, and they learned a lot from each other."
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