HOHENFELS, Germany -- U.S. Soldiers of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division along with more than 5,500 service members from 16 nations participated in the first phase of Combined Resolve XI at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Nov. 26-Dec.14, 2018.

This training exercise allowed Soldiers of 3rd Platoon to fill new roles and step out of their comfort zone because they were the only unit from their battalion who actively participated. They represented the main U.S. element in their area while coordinating with Lithuanian and Ukrainian forces, a task usually reserved for bigger elements.

"I was kind of filling the role of company commander because it was just my platoon out there," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Bryan Wolak the platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "It's a lot of responsibility to take it all in but it felt really good to go into those company commander meetings, and suddenly being given this responsibility of seeing how things work at the higher tiers."

Although the Soldiers operated efficiently on their own, they encountered difficulties obtaining fuel and various classes of supply, something normally provided by supporting units.

NATO forces had to work together to solve problems.

"Luckily the Lithuanians were very responsive to any kind of needs we had, so we overcame that disadvantage as well," Wolak said.

Although NATO partners are continents away they still have similar ways of preparing for a mission.

"The Lithuanian army and the Ukrainian army were very strategic," said U.S. Army Pfc. Joshua Beeney, an M1 tank loader assigned to 3rd Platoon. "Honestly they were just as prepared as we were."

Tactics were an important aspect that was discussed before going on movements between U.S. and Lithuanian soldiers.

"I knew I could count on them," Beeney said.

There are a lot of things to prepare for during an exercise but the one area that can be improved upon was the lack of radios to effectively communicate between partner nations, said Wolak.

To overcome limitations in communications, Lithuanian vehicles with good comms stayed near the American forces to push messages. This improved the overall effectiveness on the battlefield.

CbRXI has not only strengthened interoperability on the battlefield but has also cemented strong bonds with Soldiers on a personal level.

"We've been fighting together, going through the mud and the rain together," said Wolak. "I have much stronger bonds and connection to these allies and if anything goes down in Europe, I feel a lot more willing to jump overseas and help out our friends over here."

After Beeney spent 11 days in a single room with his unit from different walks of life, he was able to connect better with his fellow Soldiers.

"I think we became closer as a team and honestly as a family," said Beeney.