CAMP ĀDAŽI, Latvia — The snow falls silently as Soldiers lace up their boots in the early hours and darkness of the morning. They prepare for a long day of training in the snow and freezing temperatures of Latvia, as they work alongside allied nations.
Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division participated in Winter Shield 2021, a multinational combined forces exercise that integrates forces from different allied nations and increases the lethality of militaries. The exercise began Nov. 22, 2021 and concluded on Dec. 5, 2021.
The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, is currently deployed to Europe for a rotation as part of the regionally allocated forces supporting Atlantic Resolve. This is the eighth rotation of an armored brigade deployment to Atlantic Resolve. The 1st Infantry Division ABCT previously deployed in support of Atlantic Resolve for nine months in January 2019.
Latvia provided a great training environment and allowed for soldiers from countries with a warmer climate to step out of their comfort zones and get more experience in snowy, colder conditions.
Winter Shield highlighted capabilities of the joint forces. Soldiers had to remain flexible as they were integrated into different training exercises, including demolition, infantry, armored vehicles, mortar support, bridge laying and signal support.
Through precise and coordinated planning, allied nations performed together like a well-oiled machine without hesitation.
“Exercises like Winter Shield are great,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Growcock, a platoon leader for Alpha Company, 1st Brigade Engineer Battalion, said. “We’re able to share the knowledge and expertise between nations.”
Growcock shared how he was proud to see his Soldiers work alongside the Spanish Armed Forces and expand their knowledge and skills in the training domain. His unit, while attached to the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, began the exercise with a boom. They conducted abatis tree demolitions and Bangalore explosive breach training with the Spanish Armed Forces. The 1st Brigade Engineer Battalion and Spanish Armed Forces shared their demolition tactics and incorporated them into the training exercises.
In addition to the abatis training, 1st Brigade Engineer Battalion Soldiers provided an obstacle clearing breach explosive known as a Mine-Clearing Line-Charge, a rocket-guided line of explosives that deploys over 1,700 pounds of C4 to clear obstacles and provide a path for soldiers to advance forward.
Once the 1st Brigade Engineer Battalion cleared the obstacle, Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment and Latvian Land Forces advanced through the objective and reacted to simulated enemy contact. Infantrymen conducted dismounted operations with the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle (Bradley) and engaged enemy troops.
Soldiers conducted integrated company live-fires during day and night. M1 Abrams tanks and Bradleys moved down the range alongside each other, engaging enemies along the way. Once at the end of the lane, infantrymen dismounted from the Bradleys and set up defensive fighting positions.
The final day of training was a combined arms live-fire demonstration, which encompassed elements from the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment and units from allied nations that operated side-by-side to complete an objective and showcased the cohesion between nations.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Godson, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, was very pleased with how his Soldiers performed throughout the exercise.
“The strength of our alliance is our ability to work together, fight together and win together,” Godson said. “Exercise Winter Shield is essential to do that. We’re working with the Latvians, the Spanish and several other allied nations to ensure that we can accomplish a mission.”
Winter Shield 2021 concluded with a closing ceremony, where Latvian Land Forces Mechanized Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Sandris Gaugers delivered awards and recognized outstanding Soldiers for their performances during Winter Shield 2021.
“Thank you for being a part of this exercise as well as part of the Latvian unit,” Gaugers said. “I couldn’t be happier because finally we have a proper Winter Shield.”