By Spc. Joseph KnochJune 27, 2019
KOROSHEGY TRAINING AREA, Hungary - The U.S. Army and Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF) partnered up for a live fire training exercise as a part of Breakthrough 2019 June 12.
Breakthrough 2019 aims to identify the capabilities and limitations of the U.S. Army and HDF on a tactical level while in theater. During the exercise, firing systems are tested to demonstrate multi-echelon interoperability between both the U.S. and Hungarian military forces. This exercise provides an opportunity to observe the synchronization and execution of both manned and digital firing upon specified targets within a tactical environment.
"We are grateful to our strong NATO ally Hungary for hosting this outstanding training event," said Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe. " We appreciate the coordination and planning conducted by all of our allies and partners in the Balkan peninsula that ensured the success of this exercise."
Breakthrough 2019 promotes regional stability and security while increasing readiness in units such as the 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion from Ohio and New Hampshire National Guards along with Hungarian Defense Forces.
"The exercise brings together the Ohio Army National Guard and other National Guard units from four other states to exercise with U.S. Army Europe's 2d Cavalry Regiment," Lt. Gen. Cavoli said. "We are strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. Our combined training grants an opportunity to greatly improve interoperability among participating allies and partners such as the HDF,"
All of Breakthrough 2019 is set up as a joint training exercise which is designed to afford U.S. and Hungarian military units of similar skill set the chance to work together in a field environment.
"One of the Army's top priorities is training with allies and partners to improve multinational cooperation," said Lt. Col. Davis Ulricson, 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard. "I don't think we've ever waged war on our own. So if we don't exercise together, we don't understand each other, how we work together, or what our capabilities are, then we can't be effective. So it's important that we come together and exercise these things by really working together and understanding each other."
Ulricson expressed his support for the opportunity that Breakthrough 2019 is affording his Soldiers who brought, M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) from New Hampshire to shoot with the Hungarian cannon unit.
"That's pretty exciting," Ulricson said. "It's good for my Soldiers to understand cultures in other nations, meet other people and just get to know people outside of their neighborhood, It makes them feel comfortable and fosters a trust that allows us all to do our jobs better."
The Hungarian Defense Forces were quick to affirm Breakthrough 2019 in a positive light.
"It's essential, the cooperation between the Americans and the Hungarian Defense Forces," said Brig. Gen. George Sandor, Artillery Battalion, Hungarian Defense Forces.
Cavoli said that no nation could confront today's challenges alone, and Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the U.S. resolve to stand side-by-side with our NATO allies and partners.
The interoperability of Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the realistic challenges of multi-domain exercises, which are orchestrated to learn how these armies are capable of fighting together.
"Breakthrough 2019 showcases the U.S. Army's 'Total Army' concept," Cavoli said. "Breakthrough demonstrates our ability to conduct combined field artillery operations with the Hungarian Defense Forces, which builds our interoperability and collective readiness."
Exercises like Breakthrough involve the U.S. Army's ability to move units and their equipment from the United States, offload them into European ports and then move them quickly throughout the region.
"In coming to Breakthrough 2019, readiness was our priority," Ulricson said.
In sharing the real aspects of preparing a unit for an undertaking such as this, Ulricson said that a large portion of the work comes down to paperwork and online training for his Soldiers. But he also shared that there are many aspects to preparing, such as cultural awareness training, equipment inspections, and tactical training, among other things.
"The movement here from New Hampshire lasted most of the year," Ulricson said.
The 197th first had to prepare every piece of equipment, and every vehicle for the trip. Then a long series of events had to unfold. The vehicles were placed on a train to Charleston, then put on a boat and shipped to Slovenia; finally, they have downloaded them and driven by the unit the rest of the way to Hungary.
"It was an amazing effort. All in all, this is a lot of coordination and work from the people who keep this unit moving." Ulricson said.
That same dedication and work ethic remained evident.
"One of the biggest challenges was getting into the vehicles after having not seen them for so long and running communications checks to make sure that everyone was up and ready so that vehicles didn't break down on the road." said 2nd Lt. Taylor Mitchel, Platoon Leader, Bravo Battery, 3rd 197th Field Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard.
On the day of the live fire Lt. Col. Ulricson explained that part of that day's mission was to shoot one M142 HIMARS round each out of four separate MLRS within a tight time frame of just several seconds. The rockets would then travel close to the speed of sound to an impact area.
"We're currently out there right now going over different training procedures," Mitchel said. "We're working through different firing missions, everything from launcher chiefs up to our POC, or Platoon Operations Center. My role is as a firing platoon leader. I have four launchers under my command, and my goals are to ensure that the launchers have command and control. I do things such as RSOP Reconnaissance Surveillance of the Operational Area which allows the launchers to go out into the field and find certain spots to hide and then from there we can work on engaging the different fire missions that come in."
He shared that being a part of Breakthrough 2019 has allowed him to gain more experience working as an officer, helping his Soldiers learn and also learning from them.
"Honestly they know everything about it, they're subject matter experts," Mitchel said. "I've learned so much more than I thought I could from the HIMARS and MLRS aspects of it alone."
Mitchel said one of his favorite parts of this mission was the opportunity to plan and strategize.
"Especially in situations like where our launcher chiefs are coming out and finding places to hide, engage and deploy," Mitchel said. "Going out and having these crews go into their hides and operate as three-person teams, understanding how that works in an area where there are possible enemy threats. It showed a lot of the new guys, especially myself who haven't deployed, the process that is behind the deployment; moving an element of individuals as well as the equipment out to a battlefield area so that we can operate in that environment."
He said another personal highlight to working in the POC and directing fires was finally seeing the HIMARS, that he helped call out, go off right next to him.
"It's a gratifying feeling as well as very humbling because of the power and teamwork that goes behind getting that rocket down range where it needs to be, and it's awesome," Mitchel said. "Working with NATO forces, and in this case, HDF, who we are doing a lot of the training without here, is very eye-opening to see how they operate and what they know about artillery and what they can provide for us. It helps to see the whole picture and the dynamic battlefield that we are working in, with our allies."
As breakthrough 2019 came to a close Brig. Gen. Sandor shared his thoughts on the overall success of the training.
"Breakthrough 2019 was beneficial," said Sandor. "This exercise provided an opportunity to address differences between Hungarian and American military weapons, which has resulted in a more unified tactical preparedness between the two countries."