HOHENFELS, Germany -- Ever since our nation's earliest military endeavors, the outcome of some of history's most important battles have been determined by our ability to effectively communicate and determine friend or foe on the battlefield. For the past week some 5,000 service members from 21 nations have been tasked with this challenge during Combined Resolve XII, a semiannual multinational exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany from Aug. 15-27, 2019.
Assets from armored vehicles to light infantrymen are represented from NATO allies and partner nations as well as the opposing forces (OPFOR) during CBR XII. Making things more interesting, is the fact that soldiers and armored vehicles from nations such as Ukraine, are represented on both sides respectively.
"Friendly Ukrainians have the dark olive [vehicles], some of them the BDU pattern and Americans mostly have tan tanks, some BDU [pattern]," explains U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Michael Sticco, platoon leader for Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
During this years Combined Resolve exercise there is a huge variation of uniforms, vehicles and combat power, with everyone bringing something different to the fight. Exercises like CBR are perfect to address and work through these challenges and turn them into advantages to use for any given future mission together.
"Sometimes you can't [tell them apart], it's hard, it really is a struggle," said Sticco. "A little more cross talk between the different nationalities might help bridge that, just socializing or something as basic as that."
According to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Corey Tierney, an observer coach/trainer for the Timberwolf OC/T Team, the Ukrainians will have a U.S. Soldier embedded as a liaison officer. 3rd Bn., 66th Ar. Reg. also has an interpreter to further assist with the language barrier. The U.S. led allied forces can then communicate directly with the Ukrainians through their LNO and translator, as needed.
"This way, when the Ukrainian commander has a question, he'll go to his LNOs and his LNOs will bring it up to 3-66," explained Tierney. "It is difficult, and it takes a lot of cross coordination."
The necessity to communicate extends from heavy armored vehicles to light infantrymen on both sides and doing it effectively takes time and practice. This ability to communicate is key in reducing friendly fire and exponentially increase our ability to accomplish any given mission.
"Once we see a vehicle that we suspect is an enemy, we always call that up," said Sticco. "If I can't personally identify it I have other people in my company, a couple of hundred kilometers East of here, who can identify it better. At that point it's about who has the best shot. Take it. Got it. Done."
This exercise allows U.S. forces to demonstrate their ability to communicate, fight and win against an equally capable force, along with allies and partners in the European theater. It is a fundamental exercise for rotational units supporting U.S. Army Europe.