SÄKYLÄ, Finland –U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, alongside their U.K, Latvia and Estonia Allies, participated in live fire and high intensity force-on-force engagements during Exercise Arrow 22, May 1-14, 2022. Exercise Arrow is an annual, pre-planned, multinational exercise where visiting forces train with the Finnish Defense Forces to increase military readiness and develop combat interoperability among participating partner nations.
Multinational soldiers simulated combat scenarios where dismounted and on-foot soldiers fought while using the multiple integrated laser engagement system, or MILES. They bounded, took cover behind trees to shoot, and reloaded just as they would in actual combat. Soldiers also utilized drones, artillery, and minefields while armored battle groups simulated combat using their nations’ respective vehicles, which included the light armored American Strykers, British Challengers and Finnish Leopard tanks. Finnish commanders moderated the war game, telling soldiers when their deaths were simulated, removing them from [scenario] play.
“I don't think I expected it to be nearly as realistic and as challenging of a training exercise as it has been,” said Outlaw Troop platoon leader, 1st Lt. Nicky Manitzas. “I've been pushed as a leader outside my comfort zone in a way that makes me more confident that I'll succeed on the battlefield.”
Manitzas said fighting alongside allied and partner nations opened her eyes to the importance and ubiquity of battlefield fundamentals. “You realize that there are only so many ways to skin the cat,” Manitzas said. She expounded on this by pointing out that independent of what country one comes from, decisive actions achieve victory, key terrain is vital, and certain weapons systems are important at specific times, no matter the nomenclature one uses to refer to the weapon. The language barrier was the only challenge presented and Manitzas found this easy to move past if one was deliberate.
The first portion of Exercise Arrow 22 began in Niinisalo, Finland. Groups then moved to Säkylä. This provided the opportunity to train with a diverse array of terrain, from wooded hills more favorable to dismounts to open fields better suited to armored vehicles. Manitzas said it was beneficial for teams to practice in diverse environments, especially dismounts because they needed to get more into the fight and practice low-profile movements.
Manitzas also said the opportunity to work with a diverse array of nations was rewarding. “Being able to participate in an exercise at the level of Arrow 22 is extremely gratifying for me because I never thought I'd work with Latvians and Estonians, Brits, and Finns all in the same exercise.”
She recounted an especially meaningful moment during a battle handover. Her platoon had just dropped off dismounted soldiers, also known as dismounts, when they took contact from enemy vehicles.
Manitzas made the difficult decision as a leader to leave the dismounts on the ground and move back the vehicles. (Stopping to retrieve the dismounts before breaking contact would’ve taken too much time, risking both the vehicle and the dismounts’ lives.)
The platoon displaced and encountered an element of friendly tanks waiting to bound forward and assist them.Manitzas said that while sitting aboard his Leopard, the Finnish commander described how many dismounts and enemy vehicles were still on the ground which painted a beautiful picture of the battlefield for her. The friendly tank then allowed Manitzas’ platoon to reverse course so the Finnish friendlies could advance and continue the fight.
“Knowing that my dismounts were still out there while these tanks came and took out enemy targets made me feel safe and like I was supported in a way that I could not give to my own dismounts,” said Manitzas.
“Despite any language barrier, knowing that we could have that face to face contact and then communicate exactly where the enemy was, and that they could successfully go forward and provide my people with the support they needed to survive was an amazing feeling,” said Manitzas. “It was electric.”
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