GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- As many as 10 NATO countries have converged on the Grafenwoehr Training Area to participate in a live simulation exercise to prepare for deployment in support of contingency operations in Afghanistan.

With the support of the Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC), the German-led operation begins July 24, after more than one year of planning and preparation. Commanders of participating countries, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Bosnia, Hungary, Poland and the United States learn to make good battlefield decisions based on situational awareness, and build a rapport with the team they'll be working with in Regional Command North in Afghanistan.

"Part of the training is interacting with the people downrange and exchanging information," said Sgt. Anton Kireyev, a JMTC exercise support NCO. "That's done through a live NATO network."

To help the commanders grasp what the battlefield is like in Afghanistan, the JMTC enlisted subject matter experts to provide academic support, roundtable discussions, and other forms of instruction to ensure the command is ready to take over once they arrive downrange.

Kireyev and his team set up the training site in two weeks, and filled the simulation buildings with hundreds of phones, computers, servers and anything else commanders might need to communicate in the warzone.

In addition, role players participating in the simulation exercise are set up with live feeds to Afghanistan so that the commanders going through the training here can sit in on briefings from commanders with boots on ground. The situations commanders face in this training emulate what they will experience during operations in country - from the exact equipment they will use to the seating arrangement inside the Joint Operations Center (JOC) on ground.

"It's important to have these countries involved as part of coalition partners not only as allies, but to see our decision making processes," said Capt. Petero Lole, a JMTC exercise planner and NATO liaison officer. "The simulation depicts exactly what is going on in current operations in Afghanistan," he said. "So they are taking real-life scenarios, whether it is an IED on a convoy route, or construction - and replicate it here in the simulations center."

Another important part of the training event is the gaming opportunities, for the troops and commanders. They play "war games" using five closed networks based-on scenarios common to Afghanistan.

Trainers say this training will assist commanders with the military decision making process - knowing that they will soon be making decisions in an area with more than 14 million Afghans.

The exercise is conducted in 16 state-of-the-art simulation buildings operated by the JMTC's Directorate of Simulation and Training Support (DOS-TS).As the European hub of simulations, the DOS-TS supports U.S. Army Europe units and their coalition partners, and routinely supports NATO Headquarters training for deployments and Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) certification exercises. The DOS-TS Joint Multinational Simulation Center (JMSC) Division is the only Army Battle Command Training Center certified by the Joint Forces Command National Training Capabilities Program to conduct joint training.

The simulation provides allies with a realistic experience, without endangering life or equipment.

"You cannot provide them a closer simulated picture than this," Lole said. "It's hard to replicate something more than what we're providing now."