FORT KNOX, Ky. — The Victory Corps participated in DEFENDER-Europe 21 during a command post exercise (CPX) starting June 7, 2021 and lasting until June 14, 2021. The CPX was one of several linked exercises that make up DEFENDER-Europe 21, which involves more than 28,000 multinational forces and is conducted across more than 30 training areas in 12 different countries.
The CPX included approximately 2,000 personnel and focused on demonstrating the V Corps headquarters’ ability to command multinational land forces in a joint and combined training environment while maintaining real-world operations across 104 countries on two continents.
“For our CPX, we fought a constructive wartime scenario along with U.S. Army Europe and Africa [USAREUR-AF], Air Force elements, and for the first time since we stood back up, NATO allies,” said Col. Rory Crooks, V Corps chief of staff.
DEFENDER-Europe 21 was defensive in nature and focused on deterring aggression while preparing forces to respond to crisis and conduct large scale combat operations if necessary. The exercise also provided a major deterrence opportunity and demonstrated the capability of NATO to respond rapidly to the full spectrum of threats to alliance security.
“V Corps did what all corps do in large-scale combat operations; we set favorable conditions for our subordinate divisions to make their fights drastically easier,” said Crooks.
Soldiers participating in this exercise got to experience firsthand how to work with allies and partner nations while also being in a coronavirus setting. The Soldiers had to maintain 24-hour communications to keep operational awareness and ensure the mission would be a success.
“We never know if we can conduct the mission we’re given unless we bring these systems out in field conditions and work them,” said Crooks. “And we worked them around the clock and through some unfavorable weather conditions.”
The V Corps tactical command post deployed forward for the first time during the exercise. The deployment provided more training opportunities in other areas such as logistics and readiness while also causing the geographically-dispersed forces to overcome the tyranny of distance in order to integrate with the main and rear command posts.
“The Victory Corps continues on its path to be certified as a warfighting headquarters and the subsequent assumption of responsibilities in support of USAREUR-AF,” stated Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, the V Corps commanding general.
“It was great to witness the significant progression of staff integration, and process refinement during the DEFENDER-Europe 21 command post exercise. This event was not only an opportunity for us to get another repetition of training on our warfighting tasks and objectives, but it also allowed us to practice and develop systems for interoperability with our alliance partners such as the NATO Corps, Multi-National Corps-Southeast, " Kolasheski added.
“The realism of this exercise was brought to life through the efforts of USAREUR-AF, the Combined Arms Center’s Mission Command Training Program, and the 7th Army Training Command team. Their world-class support was critical to our success, we are lucky to have such great partners,” said Kolasheski.
Training events such as DEFENDER-Europe 21 prepare Soldiers to be more successful when conducting combat operations.
“Training is key to overall success,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Webb, V Corps command sergeant major. “The more that we can practice and train, the more it allows us to build confidence in not only our Soldiers, but also the systems in which they operate in support of the Victory Corps," added Webb.
“Successfully completing an exercise like DEFENDER-Europe 21 not only allows V Corps to test and validate all of our new equipment but also allows us to validate the capability of our Soldiers from the most junior to the most senior,” Webb said.
DEFENDER-Europe 21 allowed V Corps to build stronger relationships with our NATO allies and partners, promoted interoperability, and increased overall readiness.
“I think the strength of the NATO alliance depends on demonstrating real interoperability under stressful conditions,” said Crooks. “It’s only through exercises like this that we can really integrate our capabilities toward a common goal of victory on the battlefield. I think when we look back on it, DEFENDER- Europe 21 demonstrates that it will be done.”