By Pvt. Laurie Ellen SchubertMay 30, 2019
Slunj, Croatia -- Every year, thousands of European armed forces participate in multiple exercises with the U.S. to help improve interoperability and stability of the region.
Exercise Immediate Response 19 is a multinational exercise co-led by Croatian Armed Forces, Slovenian Armed Forces and U.S. Army Europe. From May 10 through June 7, 2019, throughout the Republic of Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary, the logistics-focused exercise is designed to test and improve movements of allied and partner forces and equipment rapidly from one location to another.
During their first two days in the Republic of Croatia, U.S. Army Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), participated in medical training, live fire exercises, cold-load air assault and a joint forcible entry.
On the first night of the exercise, 173rd IBCT Sky Soldiers began to train the minute their feet hit the ground.
"In Udbina we had the night exercise with the American Army and we were quite impressed at how fast, how aggressive and the quality of the exercise and the attack," said Croatian 2nd Lt. Marina Miskovic, fire support platoon leader.
These attack simulations allowed the U.S. Army to train with forces that have different strengths and assets. According to Miskovic, the Croatian military also had the chance to see how an opposition force would attack them while defending their positions.
"For the Croatian [military], the advantage is that obviously, this is their terrain," said 1st Sgt. Jeremy Lemma, 1-503rd PIR, 173rd IBCT (A). "They had excellent covered and concealed positions."
The first night the Sky Soldiers had to reach three objectives. Aided by night optical/observation devices (NODs), they covered the battlefield both on foot and with the new Army Ground Mobility Vehicle.
During the first operation involving live fire exercises, U.S. and Croatian forces enhanced their training by wearing multiple integrated laser engagement system equipment that helps identify when a target has been hit. This is a two-way feedback system that helps simulate more realistic training.
The main operation of IR 19 involved Sky Soldiers performing an air assault operation into Military Training Area Eugen Kvaternik, Slunj, Croatia. Part of the air assault involved slingloading humvees and the AGMVs to CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
U.S. and Croatian forces also traversed the field to make contact at different locations on MTA, Slunj.
"Our advantage was [that with] our flexibility as an airborne unit, we had mobility," Lemma said. "We were able to employ some small ambushes, very decentralized, move around the battlefield, and engage the enemy with essentially guerilla style tactics."
With two different military forces on the battlefield, there were many moving pieces to the exercise that Sgt. 1st Class Felix Sanchez, an infantryman, helped assess and keep the exercise moving.
"We conducted some raids, some ambushes, some real life training out here," Sanchez said.
His job during the training was primarily to assess casualties, which he did for both U.S. and Croatian forces.
The full combat simulation, medical exercises, air assault, the new implementation of the Army Ground Mobility Vehicle, and the establishment and integration of a multinational battalion resulted in an intense and active training that both Miskovic and Lemma said taught the Soldiers valuable lessons on the battlefield.
"Here, we had a special mix of operations," Miskovic said. "We had attacks, we had defenses, we had patrolling, and during those types of exercises and operations we tried to strengthen the cooperation and to see what are the main advantages and the main disadvantages between us and the U.S. Army."
Immediate Response 19 is one of many joint exercises conducted in Europe. Although the training was for the Soldiers to grow in their expertise on the field, it also fostered stronger partner capabilities, deterring any potential adversaries.
"We are really amazed with this," Miskovic said. "It was a great exercise, and honestly we've had so much fun."