Swift Response 17-2: Interoperability lessons learned

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. PolancoOctober 20, 2017

Swift Response: Allied Airborne Operation
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – HOHENFELS, Germany (Oct. 9, 2017) - A British paratrooper from the Airborne Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, packs up his equipment after safely landing on a drop zone outside of the Hohenfels Training Area during the first airborne operation in S... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Swift Response: Tactical Patrol
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – HOHENFELS, Germany (Oct. 9, 2017) - Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade pull security while British paratroopers walk through a village nearby Hohenfels Training Area to reach their objective during Swift Response 17, Oct. 9. Swift Response ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Heavy Drop
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – HOHENFELS, Germany (Oct. 10, 2017) - Multinational forces who make up the Combined-Joint Task Force during Swift Response 17, drop military vehicles from a C-130 on Hohenberg drop zone, Oct. 10. Swift Response 17, Phase II is an annual, U.S. Army Eur... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Swift Response: Air Land
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – HOHENFELS, Germany (Oct. 11, 2017) - Polish pilots conduct a safe landing on the Short Take Off Landing strip in Hohenfels during Swift Response 17, Phase II is an annual, U.S. Army Europe-led exercise focused on allied airborne forces' ability to qu... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Hohenfels, Germany (Oct. 17, 2017) -- As the second phase of Swift Response 17 is wrapping up, some of the participating Soldiers have noticed some challenges during this year's exercise.

Swift Response 17-2 (SR 17-2) is an annual, U.S. Army Europe-led exercise that focuses on allied airborne force's ability to quickly and effectively respond to crisis situations as an interoperable multi-national team. The exercise takes place at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 2-20.

This year's SR included two brigades learning how to effectively work together under a simulated higher headquarters element. This was JMRC's first time coordinating two live training audiences in the training area at one time during the same exercise.

This year, the 173rd Airborne Brigade trained alongside a multinational brigade known as the Airborne Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (A-CJEF). The A-CJEF was comprised of British and French paratroopers.

Of course challenges are going to be present when there are two primary training audiences with conflicting training objectives.

"You just have to adapt to what you see going on the battlefield," said Lt. Col Markus Hafner, the future operations officer in the German Army. "There's going to be hiccups all the time, but it's a process."

One of those hiccups came from a communications issue in the higher command (HICON); not everyone was on the same communications network.

"Coming here after six months of planning, most of the U.S. falls into the same trap, which is working on NIPR (Non-classified Internet Protocol Router)," said Maj. Brian Nielsen, the Joint Air Command Element Air Liaison Officer from the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

For U.S. Soldiers who work in the US Army Europe (USAREUR) footprint, there is no change in the communications. They can simply unplug their NIPR computers, relocate to another location in USAREUR, find a green NIPR cable, plug it into their computers and they'll be good to go.

"But for the all of the people from other nations and even those coming from CONUS (Contiguous United States), they're outside of that network," explained Hafner. "And with the majority of the Soldiers and the exercise control team being on NIPR, everything gets pushed on NIPRR. So everybody's not in that circle of trust and is kind of left out. As soon as you hit the ground, everyone should fall on the same network."

After four days of lacking interoperability in the communications department, the U.S. started using a generic coalition network where everyone was able to communicate to all participants involved in the exercise. This was an important issue for the HICON to learn because they're responsible for issuing orders down to the training brigades.

Learning from improvements highlighted by allies and partners is an opportunity for the U.S. military to grow by strengthening their weaknesses.

"Please don't believe this is just one way traffic in terms of information," said Sgt. First Class Mark Deanlove, a medical Observer-Coach/Trainer. "We are learning from them. There's certain things they do as well if not better than the way we do them. We are able to learn their lessons and incorporate them."

Another challenge in SR 17-2 was the differences in resources. Multinational forces need to understand not only how their equipment works and its capabilities, but also their allied partners' in order to be successfully interoperable.

"We have to be careful on how we combine because we could end up damaging equipment and not be combat effective," said Deanlove. "Sometimes the whole isn't greater than the sum of the parts."

The exercise becomes a matter of how these challenges can be defeated to enhance the European fighting force's abilities to deter and destroy enemy forces.

"Exercises like this actually bring a lot of hope because we are able to identify what we need to work on and we're also able to see what we're really good at," said Deanlove. "In the end, we are building a strong combined European resistance and that's including the US."

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