VAZIANI TRAINING AREA, Georgia -- Soldiers from various parts of the world commenced exercise Agile Spirit 19 with the host nation of Georgia, July 28, 2019. Co-led by Georgian Defense Forces (GDF) and U.S. Army Europe, this joint and multinational exercise supports 14 ally and partner nations and involves approximately 3,300 military personnel.
Military personnel have been preparing continuously for this event. For the last five days, Soldiers joined together on different training sites scattered across the country of Georgia, including Orpholo Training Area, Senaki Air Base and Vaziani Training Area.
"We have definitely done a lot of training in the months leading up to this event," said Spc. MaryBeth Mentzer, a U.S. Army military police officer and team leader for 178th Military Police Company from Monroe, Georgia. "We've done a lot of time in the field, going to ranges and working on our gunnery tables in preparation for the culminating event. My platoon has gone through QRF [Quick Reaction Forces] training, policing training and security training to refresh ourselves for when we are going over it with the Georgians."
The Georgia Army National Guard and the GDF have a special tie to one another this year, as it is the 25th anniversary of their U.S. European Command State Partnership Program. The Georgia Army National Guard was the third U.S. state guard to be attached to the program in 1994.
The Georgia Army National Guard has roughly 150 military personnel participating in AgS19, including the 170th Military Police Battalion Headquarters, 178th Military Police Company and the 165th Airlift Wing from the Georgia Air National Guard.
MP soldiers from GDF and the Georgia Army National Guard began the exercise by sharing insight into their ways of conducting military operations through bilateral classes.
These classes, Mentzer explained, will go into detail about the tactics of the GDF and the tactics of the Georgia Army National Guard. They will discuss how these tactics differ or how they may be alike. The intent is for each country to learn something new and refine current MP unit operations. Mentzer said she believes this comparison promises a glimpse into how other nations are conducting MP duties.
Sgt. Ryan Krohn, an MP officer with the 178th MP Company and former active duty Marine Corps MP, provided insight into the importance of this training based on his experience doing similar training as a Marine.
An active-duty Marine for six years, Krohn worked on interoperability training between fellow nations, including Australia, East Timor, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Tonga. He trained other militaries and helped conduct multinational exercises throughout the Pacific region, and now he is conducting similar training here.
"Whenever the time comes where the Georgia National Guard works with the GDF, whether that be in Afghanistan, Iraq or any other battlefield we might find ourselves in, we will be able to communicate with them properly, and they will know how we operate, and we will know how they operate," Krohn said. "This is so we can better understand each other and be a better fighting force."
A biennial exercise, AgS19 provides an opportunity for multinational and joint forces to synchronize and prepare in case of regional security threats and worldwide contingency operations.
"The value of this training can never be understated," Krohn said. "What our nations get from each other is a huge learning experience that expands from warrior to warrior, Soldier to Soldier, all the way across branches and to different militaries. Not only do we learn a healthy respect for each other, we learn to respect each other's cultures, and we learn to respect each other's military services."
This is the largest exercise, with the most manpower from ally and partner countries, in Georgia this year.
"We are building bonds between the country of Georgia and the United States, specifically between the Georgia National Guard MP force with the Georgian MP force," Krohn said.
GDF and U.S. Army Europe are providing the bulk of the troops in this exercise at approximately 1,500 service members each. The rest of the forces for AgS19, roughly 350 military personnel, were brought together from the other participating nations: Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
"It's amazing this [partnership] has been going on for so long," Mentzer said. "It's great to hear we have a relationship with another country like this and great they have put this event together to coincide with the anniversary. It makes everything we are doing all very real."