HOHENFELS, Germany (Feb. 1, 2018) -- "We're always outgunned, I cannot go toe to toe with the rotational unit in open ground," said Lt. Col. Michael Condon, commander of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment (1-4). "They have the technology and weapons overmatch. So to make up for that, we use our strengths and exploit their weaknesses."
Challenging the U.S. and multinational forces that rotate through the Hohenfels Training Area for Allied Spirit VIII may seem like a daunting task for the 1-4, which is the Joint Multinational Readiness Center's world-class opposing force, but it is a task the unit takes very seriously. They are instrumental to the learning and training environment and helping unit's get better. The best learning occurs at the threshold of failure.
Approximately 4,100 participants from 10 nations are taking part in exercise Allied Spirit VIII, Jan. 15-Feb. 5, 2018. Allied Spirit VIII is a U.S. Army Europe-directed, 7th Army Training Command-conducted multinational exercise designed to develop and enhance NATO and key partner interoperability and readiness across specified warfighting functions. That intent does not escape the 1-4 as they continuously provide the best opposition force available and are committed to building the readiness of forces that train at JMRC.
For the first time in Condon's tenure, there are no multinational forces augmenting the unit's strength for an exercise. However, they did get some help from Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, to round out its end strength of approximately 600 Soldiers.
As a battalion size element, the 1-4 never waivers as it opposes the much larger force, according to Condon. He reminds us that though his unit is much smaller, at times they might have the advantage due to their familiarity to the training area.
The 1-4 utilizes terrain and unique tactics to keep its opponents guessing. Whether it be the familiar tree lines, or its aggressive small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) for reconnaissance purposes, they always seem to be a persistent "enemy."
Staff Sgt. Joshua Janzen, the 1-4 SUAS master trainer, expresses his opinion to the unit's success.
We have a winning mentality here, said Janzen. This is our backyard, and it probably gives us an unfair advantage.
In addition to knowing the terrain better, another secret to the 1-4's success may be their preparation. Prior to an attack of the main force, they precisely conduct a combined arms rehearsal (CAR), which walks key leaders through each stage of the pending attack to ensure it is performed with accuracy and flows as the commander intends it to.
Condon points out that though they plan for hours on end at the CAR, they don't necessarily fight that plan; they fight the enemy. He praises his young leaders and Soldiers who adapt on the ground very well. He also recognizes the unit has the good fortune of getting multiple repetitions at planning and fighting every month. It's that constant focus on fighting that gives them an extra edge.
"The key is to make ourselves look bigger than we are," added Condon. "We do so by hitting them from multiple angles, staying spread out and constantly keeping the pressure on them, so they think they're in contact with a much larger force.
We want to give them the biggest and hardest fight that we think they'll ever encounter, that way when the bullets are firing for real, they'll say to themselves, 'Oh, that was easy. At least we weren't going up against the 1-4 at JMRC.'"
The 1-4's sole purpose is to play the role of an enemy. Replicating an adaptive enemy is key in preparing each U.S. and multinational unit during all rotations for future operations in defense of the European theater.
Condon added that fighting against 1-4 in a sense could be the rotational unit's last repetition before a real encounter with a near-peer force. He says the 1-4 takes this responsibility very seriously, and they are very proud of their reputation.
"We want to challenge them as hard as we can," said Condon. "This way they're prepared to deal with what our national and alliance leaders need them to do."