HOHENFELS, Germany -- Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper visited the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and troops from allied and partner nations during Exercise Saber Junction 18 at Hohenfels Training Area, Sept. 22.
Hohenfels Training Area is home of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, or JMRC, under the command of the 7th Army Training Command. Saber Junction is designed to assess the readiness of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade to execute land operations in a joint combined environment and to promote interoperability with 20 allied and partner nations.
Esper also visited with troops from Bulgaria and Greece while talking about the importance of international partnerships and multinational military cooperation.
"It's important to continue to build on those relationships and make sure that we are all as interoperable as possible, and as capable as we need to be on future battlefields," said Esper.
Afterward, Esper met with leaders and Soldiers of the 7th Army Training Command, JMRC, and the 173rd Airborne. He spoke about the importance of training and readiness.
"Across the Army, we are seeing important increases in readiness," said Esper. "As I walk around today with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, I see the same thing on the ground with Soldiers conducting operations in a high-intensity conflict environment and doing all those things they need to do to fight and win."
During Exercise Saber Junction 18, the 173rd Airborne Brigade faced off against JMRC's Opposing Forces augmented by multinational partners. Opposing Forces simulate enemy forces for training rotations.
"It gives us an opportunity to function against a free-thinking enemy and validate our training path and find any gaps in our training plans," said Capt. Kyle Hooley, company commander of Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Esper presented the Secretary of the Army Coin to 173rd Airborne Soldiers during the visit. He highlighted the dedication of the Soldiers present and how he was in their shoes 25 years ago as a rifle company commander in the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
"It's great to be back," said Esper. "This is my old unit when I commanded in the 1990s. I trained at Hohenfels, a few times. It brings back some old memories and it's good to be around Soldiers, particularly Soldiers who are out in the field camouflaged up and working hard, fighting the opposing forces out here."