By Staff Sgt. Jennifer MilnesMay 10, 2019
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, along with counterparts from several other partner nations fulfill the role of the opposing forces, working together cohesively to challenge friendly forces, or BLUFOR, on the battlefield.
More than 5,600 service members from 15 nations came together to participate in exercise Allied Spirit X in Hohenfels, Germany, from March 30 - April 17, 2019. Allied Spirit is a U.S. Army Europe-directed, 7th Army Training Command multinational exercise designed to develop and enhance NATO and key partner interoperability and readiness across specified warfighting functions.
"One of the best parts about working with other nations is the relationships you build during a rotation," said 1st Lt. Thomas McGuire, platoon leader, 1-4 Inf. Regt.
Understanding how NATO allies and partner nations fight and learning their doctrine was crucial for the OPFOR team to work together during the exercise while facing BLUFOR members throughout the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.
Unique challenges that arose from language barriers and differences in cultural customs ultimately ended up as opportunities to strengthen the bonds between the teams and other countries explained McGuire.
"It's interesting to meet men and women from different nations to understand how they fight - understand their doctrine - and give leaders opportunities to learn about other fighting forces," McGuire said. "It's fascinating working with them to understand how we can accomplish today's problems with our partner nations."
As friendly forces made their way across the training site, defending the makeshift towns and the local townspeople (role players) along the way, both friendly and opposing forces were observed and graded by observer coach/trainers. Teams of engineer advisors from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Fort Benning, Georgia also embedded with multinational forces to enhance engineer operations on the battlefield while simultaneously keeping their own mission essential tasks current.
"I think this is a wonderfully unique environment that allows people to train on the military tasks they need," said Maj. Albert Butler, commander of Alpha Company and team leader for Team 1510, 5th Battalion, 1st SFAB.
One of the highlights of Allied Spirit for Butler was observing his Soldiers develop their skills.
"Watching my soldiers get deeply integrated and passionate about who they're advising - watching them make the connections between advice and obstacles on the ground and the impacts of what was happening was amazing," said Butler. "Watching my team learn, grow and seize training opportunities is exciting as a leader."
Col. Joseph Hilbert, commander of operations group - JMRC, Hohenfels, Germany saw this as an exceptional learning experience for all participants as well. As a readiness-building exercise, he explained one of the key differences in planning and executing this year's Allied Spirit was that roles were reversed.
"Normally we build readiness for U.S. units in a multinational environment," said Hilbert. "In this case we built readiness of multinational units in a U.S. environment."
Since Allied Spirit is an annual exercise, Hilbert hopes that all nations involved were able to take their knowledge and understanding from their training with them for future training and deployments.
"I hope they learn the lethality of a 29-member nation alliance. We have incredible combat power and incredibly well-trained Soldiers," said Hilbert.