In September, 2019, the first wave of 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers arrived in the European theater in support of Atlantic Resolve. Nine months later, they are preparing for redeployment back to Fort Hood, Texas after having completed missions in six different countries. The training culminated with participation in Combined Resolve XIII and Defender 2020.
The goal of these exercises is to assess and increase the military readiness and lethality of all the joint participants. Combining forces on such an enormous scale showcased their interoperability and helped to continue promoting regional stability, thereby enhancing relationships between the allied and partnered militaries.
In support of Atlantic Resolve, the brigade Tactical Action Center (TAC) managed one Polish Battalion and seven U.S battalions.
Each of the battalions formed and strengthened relations with the countries they have served. Throughout the deployment, the units were so well received that the host nations invited them to participate in multiple events including local 5K/10k runs and parades. Many of them were also involved with adopting and rebuilding local schools, teaching students and attended many holiday events and other engagements within their regions.
238 U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle crews and 149 Abrams M1A2 tank crews were qualified after undergoing a complex certification process. Approximately 250 training events were enacted and 3,090,953 rounds were expended at the training area ranges.
Short of war, these are some of the most dynamic, situational training exercises that Soldiers are able to immerse themselves in. Moreover, they had to quickly adapt to multiple areas of operations across Europe.
“The Brigade was able to validate its ability to deploy, fight and win in a distributed environment. This deployment offered the organization an opportunity to deploy at the ‘speed of war,’ train with partners and allies on the terrain we would fight on across the continent as well as an opportunity to become immersed in local culture,” said Brigade Commander, Col. Jeremy S. Wilson. “We don’t get that in other operational environments – this one is very unique.”
In regard to the overall mission successes, Wilson praised the entire brigade. He noted that it’s filled with many integral, key Soldiers working collectively to accomplish their missions.
“No unit was founded on just one person. When we score ‘touchdowns,’ we act like we’ve been there before.”
The brigade completed nine months of essential training as they participated in joint training events with our allied and partnered military forces at Combined Resolve XIII. The Soldiers also participated in many other exercises involving Company Situational Training exercises (STX’s), Battalion Force on Force exercises (FOF) and Combined Arms Live Fire Exercises (CALFEX).
Combined Resolve XIII allowed U.S. Forces to demonstrate their ability to fight and win against an equally capable force along with allies and partners in the European theater.
Training overseas for the better part of a year made quite an impression upon many of the troopers.
“At the National Training Center, (NTC) you don’t get a lot of real experience with the enemy, but here it’s more tailored to who we’re actually going against, this was a more realistic situation, I had to brief the staff in the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and I enjoyed it,” said Spc. Rebecca Archer, an intel analyst and security manager with Headquarters and Headquarters Co. (HHC), 2ABCT, 1CD. “Being around higher enlisted helped me to see the bigger picture. I also liked that they boosted morale by having ice cream socials, movie nights and the PT became a really big thing for me on this deployment.”
Upon returning to Fort Hood, the Soldiers will return to business as usual back in the states. However, they all have many common priorities moving forward.
“My highest personal priority upon returning home after nine months is just to spend time with my wife and three boys. However, after leave it is back to business again,” said Brigade Sgt. Maj. Alexander Yazzie. “The Black Jack Brigade will be going through a huge transition this summer/PCS season. We will be losing valued team members as they move on to do great things for the Army, and we bring in new members that will continue to carry the Black Jack Brigade to greatness.”
During this particular deployment, the COVID-19 virus required a global effort to minimize its overall impact upon the population. Nearly every country had to institute a combative strategy. The U.S. Army was no different as it quickly implemented protocols that included repeated hand washing, masks and proper social distancing so that there was no interruption to unit training events. Upon return and moving forward, the Soldiers will continue to follow proper viral precautions as guidance is passed down.
“When the COVID-19 ‘Stop Movement,’ order was announced, the Black Jack Soldiers immediately responded by protecting the force and establishing secure areas, instituting quarantines and preparing control measures to prevent and react to COVID-19,” said Yazzie. “Once those initial two weeks passed, Black Jack Soldiers immediately began training again and building readiness while integrating COVID-19 preventative measures. The Soldiers understood the importance of our mission in EUCOM, and that our country is depending on us as a combat ready, forward deployed unit to be able to react to anything if needed.”
A large measure of success during this deployment was dependent upon the Soldiers ability to adapt, communicate and execute an array of military strategies with other Soldiers from our allied and partnering nations. They did not disappoint.
“Each interaction was an opportunity to learn – every country is well lead – Its leaders and Soldiers are well trained and have a wealth of experience we all can benefit from in the future,” said Wilson.
“Overall, the troopers did a fantastic job both on and off duty. They represent the unit and the country very well.”
Ultimately, every dollar spent and every man hour exhausted is all geared toward ensuring the United States Army remains the most lethal, effective fighting force in the world. Preserving our safety along the home front and discouraging any hostilities abroad toward our NATO allies and partners is its foremost priority.
So, how has this European training benefited Black Jack in relation to potential real world combat readiness?
“If we did have to take on a near peer adversary here in Europe, I have no doubt that we would crush them,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Bender, commander of 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment of Fort Hood, Texas.