VARPALOTA, Hungary -- Ohio National Guard Soldiers of A and B Batteries, 1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery Regiment participated in BREAKTHROUGH 2019, a training exercise hosted June 4-15 by the Hungarian Defence Forces' Land Forces. The exercise was an opportunity for Ohio's artillery battalion to deploy its weapons systems in a more complex bilateral operational environment.
"Exercise BREAKTHROUGH 19 showcased the U.S. Army's 'Total Army' concept," said U.S. Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe. "The exercise brought together Ohio National Guard units and Army National Guard units from four other states to exercise with U.S. Army Europe's 2nd Cavalry Regiment. BREAKTHROUGH 19 demonstrates our ability to conduct combined field artillery operations with the Hungarian Defence Forces, which builds our interoperability and collective readiness."
The Hungarian Land Forces established a challenging environment for the training and provided opportunities for the participating units to develop lethal capacity with their assigned artillery pieces.
"Our Soldiers were given a unique experience to hone their skills as 13B field artillerymen," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Alfred, with B Battery, 1-134th FA. "This Hungarian range here outside Camp English allows the Soldiers to fire direct-fire and indirect fire at once, which are opportunities they don't get often stateside."
The exercise tested the participants with fire missions on multiple ranges, and distances during the day and night. Ohio's Soldiers were grateful for the opportunity to develop mastery on the latest generation of light artillery.
"We are shooting (M)119A3 light howitzers, which are relatively new to us," said Staff Sgt. David A. Lucero, B Battery, 1-134th. "This is our second year fielding them, so it's awesome to get the chance to come over and shoot them on foreign soil."
BREAKTHROUGH 19 was good experience for the Ohio artillerymen to operate in coordinated action with their active-duty and Hungarian Land Forces counterparts.
"The training is interesting because we are able to not only work with other U.S. Army units but are able to work with the Hungarian units and see how they operate over here," Lucero said. "To see how they do the fires that we do and operate their light howitzers, to train with them and learn from them only increases our readiness."
The ability of these field artillery Soldiers to effectively integrate into the Hungarian exercise was facilitated by the Ohio National Guard experience in the State Partnership Program. This program partners foreign nations with U.S. state National Guards in military partnerships, which often facilitates joint training opportunities like BREAKTHROUGH 19.
"Our long-lasting partnership started in 1993," said Brig. Gen. Zsolt Sandor, chief of staff, Hungarian Defence Forces. We were one of the first partner states for the United States. We are particularly thankful for getting Ohio as our partner state and through the years we have been deployed together to places like Afghanistan. This is a partnership that is turning into a friendship and a brotherhood. So it is always good to have Ohio units welcomed to Hungary. Individuals knowing and understanding each other is important. We do have a common language with the Ohio National Guard, and it's helped a lot not just to organize the exercise but also when receiving the artillery unit."
Being received by their Hungarian brothers and firing their weapons systems in coordination with multiple unit types is only part of the important experience Ohio's Soldiers gained participating in the exercise.
"This allowed us to not only work on our skills as artillerymen but also logistically," said Alfred. "We had to coordinate movement from Columbus, Ohio to here in Hungary. Our Soldiers got the experience of conducting a three-day convoy from the Port in Slovenia to here at our location at Camp English in Hungary."
The ability to conduct a movement like this by a National Guard unit is indicative of the strong partnerships between the U.S. and its allies abroad.
"Exercises like BREAKTHROUGH 19 succeed because of our ability to move these units and their equipment from the United States, offload them at European ports and then move them quickly throughout the region." Cavoli said. "We are grateful to our strong NATO ally Hungary for hosting this outstanding training event, and appreciate the coordination and planning conducted by all our allies and partners in the Balkan Peninsula that ensured the success of this exercise. No nation can confront today's security challenges alone - BREAKTHROUGH 19 demonstrates the U.S. resolve to stand side-by-side with our NATO allies and partners."