SMARDAN TRAINING AREA, Romania – Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, banded together with Polish and Romanian land force battalions to execute joint-force exercise Justice Eagle March 23.
The allied ensemble gathered to take on a tough, realistic and battle-focused scenario led by the United States.
“The scenario was an enemy had evaded through a port in Romania with naval infantry forces,” said Lt. Col. Neil Hollenbeck, battalion commander, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “Our responsibility was to seize key terrain to prevent the enemy from continuing the attack and set the conditions for follow-on forces from NATO to attack.”
The whispers of the windy spring day were broken by a chorus of engines from the multinational armored vehicle fleet. The U.S. boasted the powerful M2A3 Bradley with the Polish and Romanians showcasing the agile Rosomak Wolverine and lethal TR-85 Main Battle Tank, respectively.
“We brought together a motorized infantry company from the Polish military contingent, Romanian heavy artillery units, and one of our mechanized infantry companies,” said Hollenbeck. “The purpose of the exercise is deterrence. It’s to demonstrate to our adversaries that the alliance is strong and our many armies can seamlessly fight together as one.”
Joining the United States with the European allies for Justice Eagle took months of planning that focused on a few key objectives.
“The planning started back in January with all three nations,” said Cpt. Ryan Cash, battalion information officer, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “The biggest takeaway was to make sure that the scheme of vehicle maneuver was understood by all to make sure conditions were set for a successful live-fire operation.”
Another key objective was establishing communications between each country’s radio systems.
“We were able to establish secure radio communications between all three partner forces, which was a significant interoperable success,” said Cash. “Getting those secure comms was a big part of the exercise.”
NATO’s appetite for multinational live-fire exercises is fueled by the opportunity to establish best practices between nations, with an emphasis on safety.
“We had particular safety concerns here at Smardan Training Area,” said Cash. “It’s a very narrow firing range. Fitting three companies of vehicles in a tight gap was concerning, but we were able to work through and mitigate the risk. There were operation command teams behind each element ensuring everyone was maneuvering and firing in a safe manner.”
“What I like about my command team is they gave us the opportunity to run several iterations of the scenario without live ammunition,” said Pfc. Sharjeel Ahmed, infantryman, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “It made sure everyone knew their part and gave us a sense of comfortability with our weapons systems prior to the live exercise.”
COVID-19 was the only adversary that posed a real threat, causing additional safety concerns.
“We made sure everyone remained socially distanced when possible,” said Cash. “We provided hand sanitizer and adhered to all Army guidelines to make sure we don’t end up with any COVID positives here. It’s important that we keep training during the pandemic because it reassures our allies that the U.S. is here and it deters aggression. That’s the point of Atlantic Resolve, assurance and deterrence.”
The meticulous planning from the command team created a stage of ease for the platoons to perform their duties at an exceptional level. The United States, Romania, and Poland cleared all their objectives, strengthening the three-way relationship one target at a time.
“As infantry units, we were told to assault and take over an objective,” said Ahmed. “That’s exactly what we did. While the Polish and Romanians provided support fire, we dismounted the Bradley Fighting Vehicles and took out every one of our enemies.”
“Justice Eagle has made NATO a more lethal force,” said Cash. “We were able to have all three nations conduct a live-fire operation together. That inspires the confidence within me as a leader to know that we can seamlessly integrate a partner nation in live combat operations downrange.”
“We achieved all of our objectives,” said Hollenbeck. “I’m impressed by how quickly the Polish, Romanians and Americans came together into one cohesive task force. It’s given us confidence that we can fight together and it has taught us how to do that well. The purpose of the alliance is mutual aid, and we saw that on the ground here today, with allied soldiers leaping at opportunities to assist one another. If the time comes for us to fight together, we can rely on one another.”