HOHENFELS, Germany -- "The importance of Allied Spirit is to bring our NATO partners together in a cohesive exercise where we can test and exercise our alliance together to prove interoperability, have situational understanding, learn tactics and maneuver, and increase our ability to integrate these forces to work together as a full team," said Brig. Gen. Jeff Smiley, the deputy commanding general of the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard.

The Allied Spirit VII exercise is taking place at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 22, 2017. There are approximately 4,050 participants from 13 nations: Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The three-week exercise integrates different forces into one multinational brigade, with Lithuania taking the lead as the higher command during the exercise. Lithuania provides mission command of fire support, offensive, defensive and stability tasks, while concurrently operating a command post exercise at the Warfare Training Center in Nemencine, Lithuania.

"It's very important for us to train together with our partners," said Col. Arturas Radvilas, the commanding officer of the Lithuanian army's Motorized Infantry "Griffin" Brigade. "For us, this is the most important thing because it's a multinational exercise."

In the first week, the participating nations used their time wisely getting to know each other's procedures, capabilities and systems by exercising specific war fighting objectives like improvised explosive device awareness training, route clearance, and vehicle recovery. Some of the other training objectives included media engagements, civilian-military integration, medical training, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense.

This integrated training was an invaluable asset for the California Army National Guard unit to take home, as the Soldiers don't often receive many opportunities to train with allied partners, said Smiley. The Guardsmen were also able to bring a different perspective to the exercise, as they have a lot of experience with joint interagencies.

"We have a lot of experience in working with law enforcement, fire services, local government, and county and state governments," said Smiley. "Well, those experiences really play out very well over here in this complex environment where we get to interface."

After the week of refresher training, the units familiarized themselves with the training area by moving into their fighting positions as they prepared for the main exercise days to begin.

"It was totally different from what we normally do because most of our training is conducted in Canada on wide-open prairies," said Lt. Col. Jez Lamb, the United Kingdom's 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment Fusiliers, who were first-time participants in Allied Strike. "But here, maximum ranges are about 50 meters, so it's very close. We can't form nice open formations, so the whole thing is totally different."

After familiarization with the terrain of Hohenfels Training Area, and understanding everyone's involvement and capabilities, the Fusiliers and the rest of the multinational brigade were ready to take on the opposing forces.

Over the main exercise days, the participants are challenged to apply their training and integrate their skills to conduct recons, dismounts, attacks and defensive operations as one interoperable fighting force.

"This is a unique opportunity for us to be trained here," said Radvilas. "Being able to learn from our partners and understand them is very important for us."