ADAZI, Latvia — Following a week of grueling field operations, Task Force Marne Soldiers concluded their participation in Silver Arrow, an exercise designed to test the capabilities of NATO’s Canadian-led enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia (eFP Latvia), Sept. 26.
The exercise helped further develop interoperability between U.S. forces and NATO allies while integrating their systems and standard operating procedures with one another for future missions.
“[This is] a training opportunity for us to put the battalion on the ground, to test our systems, to test our functionality here in Latvia, for us to integrate our systems with the Latvian systems, and then for us to interact with the eFP,” said Lt. Col. Eric Evans, commander of 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment "Red Currahee," 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), supporting the 3rd Infantry Division.
“We spent a lot of time talking with the Canadian-led eFP and working our systems and talking about how we would operate together,” Evans continued.
The U.S. contingent provided support in defensive and offensive roles throughout the exercise, allowing the Task Force Marne infantrymen to execute infantry battle drills and hone air assault tactics in real-world operational scenarios alongside NATO allies.
“The benefit of training here is that we get to see how our partner's fight,” 1st Lt. Ian Stuart, a heavy weapons platoon leader with the Red Currahee Battalion, said. “It's one thing to train with other fellow United States military or Army personnel, but to be able to see how our partners, who we will train and fight with, should that ever be necessary, and learn lessons from them as well as help them apply lessons that we've learned, it's invaluable, and it couldn't be obtained any other way.”
Silver Arrow allowed U.S. and eFP Latvia forces to train with armored vehicles, drones, anti-tank weaponry, and other NATO equipment. Evans said his Soldiers wouldn’t have the same equipment training capabilities back stateside.
"You'll be able to see us implement anti-tank assets that are mounted on trucks, employ those rapidly and to great effect, as well as air assault training as we move troops over distance with helicopters and rapidly insert them into simulated combat zones,” Stuart said.
The real-world equipment training, in turn, allowed the multinational forces to better understand their own and allies’ equipment.
“We get to take our skills, apply them, and mesh them with the Latvians and what they're good at, and learn what weaknesses we have, what strengths we possess, and how to bolster those strengths and mitigate those weaknesses,” Stuart added.
Another training operation within Silver Arrow consisted of U.S. and Canadian forces conducting an air assault and infiltration in the area of operations.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob Shumway, an aviation safety officer with Task Force Nighthawk, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, served as the air mission commander for the operation.
The airlift presented Task Force Nighthawk, Task Force Marne, and NATO partners with real-world logistics challenges, which the units were able to tactfully and successfully work through, with no significant impacts to the exercise, Shumway added.
“We just love working with our teammates,” Shumway said. “Obviously, [working with] our NATO allies is a huge bonus just for the simple fact of building relations, learning each other's TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures), and how we can develop together as allies.”
Besides the training, U.S. and Latvian forces were able to execute real-world tasks together, Evans said. Evans highlighted his forward support and headquarters companies for their work with Latvian forces, saying that the units were able to provide hot meals, medical care, vehicle recovery, and munitions to Latvian partners throughout the exercise.
Evans concluded that Silver Arrow and other similar exercises in the Baltics help serve as a deterrence, as it shows U.S. and NATO forces truly working together, and if needed in the future, sets conditions for the U.S. and other NATO allies to rapidly integrate with Baltic partner nations or NATO eFP forces.
“We won't have to ask the new guy questions,” Evans said. “We become combat-credible much more quickly, because we don't go through a combat power build phase. We arrive … and we're truly ready to fight.”