By Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni, 138th Public Affairs DetachmentSeptember 25, 2019
HOHENFELS, Germany- People poured out of buses at security checkpoints seeking evacuation to safety as the threat of enemies crossing the German border seemed forthcoming. They walked up dirt roads lined with barbed wire, concrete barriers and armed Soldiers to the U.S. Embassy. The Department of State Consul General issued the order to evacuate all U.S. citizens and eligible persons. This was a scenario at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.
U.S. service members, Bosnian soldiers and Department of State Foreign Service officers worked together on a multinational simulated Noncombatant Evacuation Operation as a part of Saber Junction 19 on Sept. 20, 2019.
JMRC frequently updates and changes the operational scenarios to challenge the rotational training units. During this exercise, the planners featured a NEO which is a process of evacuating U.S. citizens and other personnel in foreign countries to safe havens when their lives are threatened by war, civil unrest or natural disaster.
"In this simulated event, there is a threat from an enemy that has crossed the border of Germany," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jason Vincent, the Senior Civil Affairs Observer Control. "The decision has been made by the Department of State Consul General to evacuate all U.S. citizens and personnel from the affected areas."
Kelly Winck, a Foreign Services officer with the State Department, is participating in her first NEO exercise, and is playing the role of the Consul General - the highest-ranking senior State official in this scenario. Winck explained the importance of this training, and how partnering with the military is essential to the staff of the Department.
"Being a part of this exercise gives the State Department absolutely invaluable training on how to process American citizens that need to be evacuated out of a warzone, or natural disaster area," said Winck.
To assure that U.S. citizens and eligible persons are evacuated safely, the State Department worked closely with the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade and armed forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina to assist in securing areas surrounding the U.S. Consulate.
"We all worked well together, and I have a new experience in non-conventional operations," said a soldier from the Bosnian civil military cooperation team. "The whole world is one world - if you want to make a peace in the whole world we must work together."
The simulated internally displaced people were evacuated by bus to an airfield where U.S. Air Force Security Forces secured the area and assisted the evacuees with boarding onto a C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft.
Senior Airman Luz DeJesus, with the 435th Contingency Response Squadron, assisted in processing the incoming simulated IDPs.
"It's an awesome opportunity to see how these events go down because in a real-world situation we need this expertise," said DeJesus.
The Air Force was one of the many organizations that came together for this scenario.
"The strength of the interagency partnership on display here has been wonderful," Winck added. "It's given me an incredible amount of confidence in the capacity of the U.S. government to protect lives and interests overseas."
The NEO scenario is just one of many taking place during Saber Junction 19 which runs through Sept. 30.