LEST, Slovakia — Slovak Shield 22 — part of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa-directed and V Corps-led DEFENDER-Europe 22 exercise — is a multinational, operational training exercise held from May 16 to 27 at Lest Training Area in Slovakia.
The exercise integrated over 1,200 participants from Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic and the U.S. under the command and control of NATO Multinational Corps Central and the Slovak Republic as the host nation.
As the largest national exercise in Slovakia, Slovak Shield improved relationships with neighboring countries and allies by participating in a command post exercise. The exercise was designed to train commanders and staff on executing multinational operations and tactics involving units from the Slovak Republic armed forces, NATO Multinational Battle Group Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and the U.S., to include the Indiana National Guard in concert with its state partnership with the Republic of Slovakia.
Live training was also conducted to evaluate the combat readiness of the Slovak army, in accordance with the country’s national standards. This training challenged interoperability of tactics, techniques and procedures with foreign partners and the ability to execute military operations with international participation using the English language throughout the process.
Participants in Slovak Shield included Soldiers from the Apache Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the 62nd Sapper Company along with units from the 12th Mechanized Battalion of the Slovak army and soldiers of the Czech army. The exercises included small arms cross-training, situational training, company/platoon combined live-fire, mine clearing and joint mission oriented urban training including breach operations. The soldiers worked together as a team to enhance training and operations between the countries.
“Slovak Shield is a training event where we can interact with our NATO partners and build interoperability and training proficiency,” said Capt. Connor Stewart, commander of the 62nd Sapper Company.
“These exercises are critical for many reasons,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Burke, deputy commanding general of support, V Corps. “The biggest piece to that is to show the readiness of NATO and the resolve of multiple forces here in one venue to operate together and test our ability to operate together. It is to validate standing operating procedures, but also build the relationship. Relationship building with NATO is very important.”
Burke continued, “To know who you’re training with and having that familiarity with each other in the training environment is invaluable.”
According to Apache Troop Commander, Capt. Ted Martin, the human domain is extremely important to relationships in this type of environment, whether in exercise or in real life. Without those relationships, interoperability wouldn’t be possible. That is the purpose of these exercises, to build trust with partners and allies, so they can learn to operate as one.
Working together is not only important to the commanders, but to everyone involved in these exercises. If a mistake is made in training, then that part of the training is repeated to ensure the soldiers know how to operate as a team.
“The experience here during Slovak Shield really opens our eyes to how two different countries operate,” said 1st Lt. Jacob Price, platoon leader, 3rd Platoon, Apache Troop. “It builds better relationships as we begin to learn more about our allies and how we operate in a joint task force framework.”
During the exercise, U.S. Soldiers experienced first-hand how the countries work together in both a battle-simulated operation and a live training scenario. It gave them the chance to better understand one another and make changes to work better together. The Soldiers were able to build a better relationship with the Czech, Hungarian, and Slovak partners during their time in Lest.
“Apache Troop, 1-2CR, is honored to be selected to stay here and be part of [NATO Multinational Battle Group Slovakia] during a time of historic significance,” said Martin.