VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, Georgia -- More than 3,000 participants from 13 allied and partner nations gathered here Aug. 1 for the opening ceremony of Exercise Noble Partner 18.

Noble Partner 2018 is a Georgian Armed Forces and U.S. Army Europe-led exercise in its forth iteration. The exercise is intended to support and enhance readiness and cooperation between Georgian forces, participating nations, regional partners and the United States.

Countries involved in this year's exercise include the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Norway, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Noble Partner 2018 will be conducted at Vaziani and Camp Norio training areas in Georgia, Aug. 1-15.

In attendance for the opening ceremony were Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia Irakli Kobakhidze, Minister of Defence of Georgia Levan Izoria, Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Vladimer Chachibaia, the U.S. Charge d'Affaires H.E. Elizabeth Rood and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph Lengyel.

Senior officials and leaders addressed the importance of the multinational exercise and partnership.

"Your participation in these exercises is a guarantee of stability and peace," Margvelashvili said. "Today our unity, friendship, and common aims are to protect peace, well-being, and good health of our citizens. Your contribution to the strength of our states is colossal."

He went on to say that the partnerships between the nations, through these exercises, will advance Georgia's defense capabilities and ensure security in the region.

This year the exercise supports the training of the Georgian Armed Forces mechanized and special operations forces, U.S. regionally-aligned forces, and the U.S. Army and Air National Guard from the state of Georgia as part of the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

"This exercise [Noble Partner 18] offers an excellent opportunity for me to reaffirm the great value of Georgia and the United States' State of Georgia National Guard's security cooperation relationship, now almost 25 years old," Lengyel said. "This enduring partnership, based on mutual respect and common interests, has enhanced the capacities of our respective militaries and deepened our understanding and friendships between the U.S. and Georgia.

"Our partnership has expanded to focus more on combat centric readiness as demonstrated by exercises like this," Lengyel continued. "This exercise should lead to a better understanding of how we exercise; how we operate and how we work together toward a greater security cooperation effort."

To demonstrate the seamless partnership between their countries, Soldiers from 2nd Cavalry Regiment and German Bundeswehr 39th Panzergrenadierbataillon exited two Georgia Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to simulate air assault operations on an notional objective.

"The U.S. is proud to be a strategic partner with Georgia and every nation present here at this exercise," Lengyel said. "We look forward to continuing our commitment into the future."