Rentina, Greece -- The sound of silence is all that is heard on a warm and sunny morning in northern Greece. There is no indication in the small opposition force camp that anything is amiss or headed their way. Then, just as a Greek soldier sits down for a cup of coffee, the unmistakable sound of a squad automatic weapon opens up upon the camp, laying down cover fire for the company of Sky Soldiers that are descending from the mountain top to raid the camp.Sky Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade and paratroopers from the 1st Paratrooper Commando Brigade, Greek Army are conducting battle drills, exercises and airborne operations during Exercise Bayonet Minotaur, May 13-23, 2017 near Camp Rentina, Greece.
"Bayonet Minotaur is a great example of us executing the commanding general's intent," said Capt. Ed Carazo, Bravo Company Commander, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. "It is an example of us focusing on the southern region by providing securing and stability through training with our Allies."The exercise began with static airborne training for both countries, followed by a combined jump into the fields of northern Greece using the U.S. T-11 parachute."We conducted sustained airborne training, got the Greek soldiers familiar with our way of getting ready for a jump and made sure everyone understood the safety procedures," said Staff Sgt. David Huebschman, fire support noncommissioned officer, Bravo company, 1st Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt, and assistant jumpmaster for the airborne operation. "It was immediately noticeable that they [the Greek paratroopers] jump a lot and that they have really good discipline, especially when we got on the plane."Following the airborne operation, Paratroopers from both nations prepared to run a situational training exercise, which would test techniques, tactics and procedures of a simulated raid on a weapons cache site and an ambush of enemy vehicles. Though no strangers to these missions, the Sky Soldiers had some adapting to do."This a new environment for us, we have used to get used to the new elevation, terrain and foliage," said Spc. Aaron Mcdade, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. "Since this is a new terrain, it adds to our 'bags of tricks' and how we adapt and overcome to different situations. It's new enough that I believe it will force the command decision to change how they go about moving to the objectives."Through the flow of instruction and guidance from both Greek and U.S. Paratroopers, the infantrymen are able to focus and perfect their most basic and crucial skills."We are honing our basic infantryman skills, at the individual, team and squad levels - each level of leadership is focusing on improving," said Carazo. "The platoon leader and platoon sergeant are focusing on refining the troop leading procedures. We wanted to give them opportunity to run through the entire process- from receiving the mission, creating the plan, disseminating that information and then executing that in an environment they are not familiar with."Although the terrain may be new, the methods both nations use are not."Our tactics are very similar," said Mcdade. "They are the same in pulling 360-degree security and roaming patrols- it makes blending our fighting styles that much easier. I feel like our training objectives line up very well, and we both want the same thing."In accordance with NATO standards, both nations are looking to align certain objectives and be able to mass full combat power whenever necessary. Throughout the training, a few crucial elements are key to a successful mission."The three main things we are looking to get out of here is the mission command, common operating picture, and secure communications," said Carzo. "We are going to make sure we work together on the way we carry out our plan, how we can notate different maps for full understanding between nations and we want to establish a solid foundation to be able to build on for communication systems in the future."Multinational training prepares both nations to be better ready and prepared to respond at a moment's notice, especially since the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of responding within 18 hours to anywhere within the U.S. Army Europe, Africa or Central command areas of responsibility.Both 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and the 1st Paratrooper Commando Brigade already have plans to work together in the future at a much bigger exercise."We are aligning with our allies that we will soon partner with again in Saber Guardian in Bulgaria. However, being out here in a smaller and more intimate environment it allows us to learn some of their tactics, techniques and procedures easier," said Carazo.Bayonet Minotaur allows leaders to connect not only professionally, but also personally - bringing the shared knowledge of infantry and airborne together as a learning point."Through the mission command and everyone knowing who to talk to and who the key leaders are in their organization and ours is crucial," said Carazo. "That interaction is not only on a professional level but a personal level as well."The 173rd Airborne Brigade (Sky Soldiers) is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities. Forward-based in Italy and Germany along with a National Guard-partnered battalion in Texas, the Brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build interoperability and strengthen the Alliance.