HOHENFELS, Germany- The vibrant yellow color of the North Macedonia flag popped out on their armored personnel carriers as they rolled by. The tension was in the air as the back hatch opened, and soldiers spilled out with their weapons. The soldiers established defensive positions and secured the perimeter of the town Engslwang. This was a scene during Saber Junction 19 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

The North Macedonia Army has been working alongside the 173rd Airborne Brigade to conduct training that not only improves their readiness but also their interoperability with other NATO allies and partners during SJ19, Sept. 3 to 30 Sept. 2019.

North Macedonia is currently in the process of joining NATO. They're expected to be a member in December or early next year after NATO members signed its accord on its accession in February. The accord is presently going through a ratification process in member states. Their participation in this joint training exercise further shows their commitment to joining.

"We want to learn from all the NATO allies and partners," said North Macedonia Maj. Mitre Bagnadov, the commander of 3rd Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Army of the Republic of North Macedonia. "We are here to provide support and want to become a NATO member country."

The North Macedonia soldiers have been performing security operations, as well as small arms and artillery support for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

"It has been a rewarding experience building communications and conducting operations with the North Macedonia soldiers," said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Ethan Nelson, infantry officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. "We have been able to learn their mission command structure, and it's going to set us up well to work together and friendly nations in the future."