KEFLAVÍK, Iceland - The 702nd and 720th Ordnance Companies deployed 10 Soldiers to participate in Northern Challenge 17 in the first two weeks of October.
Northern Challenge is an Explosive Ordnance Disposal event hosted by the Icelandic Coast Guard that advances NATO's efforts to fight international terrorism.
The event strengthens U.S. Army Europe's connection to allies, local government leaders, and civilians in Europe. The training exercise is the largest EOD exercise in Europe. Approximately 15 NATO countries and more than 275 Soldiers were involved in the training exercise.
Some of the countries involved included the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Germany, Norway, Poland, and Belgium. Approximately 36 observer/controllers from 15 different countries evaluated more than 400 EOD tasks. The event resulted in knowledge gained for both the EOD teams and the observers, as they discussed the efficiency and safety of the training, tactics, and procedures utilized to render safe the explosive devices.
The focus of the event was to evaluate the EOD teams on Counter-Improvised Explosive Device procedures. It is rare for an EOD team to be able to perform its entire mission in a training environment. The skills the EOD techs use are crucial defeat the device and to attack the Improvised Explosive Device network.
"Northern Challenge is an excellent opportunity for U.S. EOD teams to work alongside their NATO partners in realistic scenarios with a focus on the EOD operator," said Sgt. Maj. Jason T. Gerber from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, EOD cell. "The location of the exercise and focus on the operator are unique to major exercises routinely supported by U.S. EOD forces. This serves as an excellent opportunity for skill development, use of equipment in real-world settings, and integration with other joint force enablers to mitigate hazards and attack the network in a C-IED fight.''
With the increasing threat of improvised explosive devices, it is important to cross train with allies in order to expand overall knowledge and understanding of EOD procedures.
"Events like NOCH build allied capacity as EOD teams from across NATO exercise interoperability to defeat complex explosive threat scenarios by utilizing their unique equipment and capabilities," said Lt. Col. Brian J. Ketz, commander of the 16th Special Troops Battalion. "This unique event employs TTPs, provides shared understanding, and identifies capability gaps in the employment of a joint force mission, and provides us with a ready force to support NATO operations."
Cross training of NATO forces is an investment in the future of the fighting force. The constant development of new TTPs guarantees U.S., ally, and partner forces stay a step ahead of the enemy in reduction of threats against military and civilian targets.
In order to continue to provide the NATO alliance with a strong, ready-to-deploy fighting force, it is important for the U.S. military to establish a presence in every multinational training event.
"Our presence and participation in multi-national, joint forces training exercises highlights our nation's ability to act as a premier defense and fighting force for worldwide combatant commanders," said 1st Sgt. Michael B. Brock from the 702nd Ordnance Company. "It demonstrates the strengths of our military's training protocols and established doctrine, and illuminates our enthusiasm to enable partner nations to excel in methods of training to achieve defense readiness, while furthering the breadth and impact of vital strategic alliances."
By participating in events of this nature, 702nd EOD demonstrated the expertise of the U.S. Army Soldier, consequently displaying their capability and willingness to deploy, adapt, and win in complex environments through combined efforts with Allies and partners.
Improvised explosive devices have proven to be an effective weapon when used against NATO and its partners. Events such as NOCH enhance the preparedness of the U.S. and its Allies to combat this.