KRIVOLAK TRAINING AREA, Republic of Macedonia - The Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) began August with assistance and observation of aerial and ground gunnery training by two units under the command of U.S. Army Europe at the Krivolak Training Area (KTA) in the Republic of Macedonia.

On Aug. 1, more than 100 Soldiers with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, (3-61 CAV) from Fort Carson, Colorado, and more than 20 Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, (3-126 AVN) of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, based in Boston, Massachusetts, kicked off gunnery training at Krivolak. The training is scheduled to conclude in late August.

The 3-126 AVN conducted aerial gunnery certification tables at Krivolak. This is the first time any U.S. aviation unit has fired at a range in the Republic of Macedonia.

Maj. Isaac Howard, operations officer with the 3-61 CAV, explained how using Krivolak makes gunnery training more effective. "Krivolak Training Area absolutely contributes to the training's effectiveness because of the breadth of activities that units may conduct," said Howard. "Many ranges are restrictive in the types of exercises in which units participate. Krivolak's possibilities encompass a very wide pallet. We have the ability to integrate multiple vehicles, indirect fire, and joint air and ground coordination. The sheer size of KTA and its separation from major population centers provides opportunities for very effective training."

Since the Republic of Macedonia was recently certified by the 7th Army Training Command, this important milestone showcases the ARM's capabilities to officially host U.S. sponsored military training at the site and to demonstrate to U.S. and NATO leadership the Republic of Macedonia's ability to host future training at Krivolak.

According to Capt. Patrick E. Enriquez, Bilateral Affairs Officer with the Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Embassy, Skopje, Macedonia, the 3-61 CAV and 3-126 AVN are the first American units to conduct gunnery on this scale at Krivolak.

"U.S. forces training at the Krivolak Training Area was a concept approved at the highest levels of the Macedonian government," said Enriquez. "This the latest and one of Macedonia's most important reciprocal contributions to the U.S. and NATO. It demonstrates their willingness and preparedness to join the greater alliance."

The purpose of gunnery training is varied for each unit. The 3-61 CAV's intent is to qualify six platoons, rotating, through Table VI qualification for crew, section and mortar gunnery. The 3-61 also began to qualify Cavalry Scouts on the M2 and M240 machine guns, the MK-19 grenade launcher and hand grenades.

"While U.S. troops arrived to Kosovo fully trained, skills and proficiencies atrophy over time," said Howard. "Live-fire gunneries ensure that requisite combat skills remain sharp. Gunnery exercises, like the one we are conducting at Krivolak Training Area, keep forces in the highest state of readiness because they test Soldiers' and crews' ability to put rounds on target, prioritize threats, shift between multiple targets, and coordinate within their sections to ensure proper fire distribution."

Enriquez and Howard attributed the successful planning of the training event to several entities, the U.S. Embassy - Macedonia, U.S. Army Europe. United States European Command, the Ministry of Defense and Army of the Republic of Macedonia have all been critical in the planning and execution of this training.

"The Army of the Republic of Macedonia staff at KTA are a very professional and thorough organization," said Howard. "Their coordination has been critical to this event's execution. We have all been very impressed with the ARM's conduct, punctuality, and hospitality in facilitating this gunnery."

This training highlights the current capabilities and future possibilities for the Republic of Macedonia among NATO allies and partners.

"The Republic of Macedonia has been a recipient of U.S. military assistance since at least 1993. This assistance includes training, equipping and education," said Enriquez. "Soldiers from the Army of the Republic of Macedonia have deployed on several occasions in support of U.S. contingency operations worldwide, most significantly in 2010 with the Vermont National Guard to Afghanistan with 79 Soldiers (two platoons and one Special Forces team). Interoperability training is critical at the tactical level to ensure the ARM can continue to deploy alongside U.S. and other allied forces."

The goal is to continue using the KTA on a larger scale for future training.

"We hope for the same support for the next rotation of U.S. forces stationed near Macedonia, and for summer of 2019, during exercise Decisive Strike 19, when two battalions of Strykers from the Pennsylvania National Guard will train in Macedonia," said Enriquez.