This article is part of the "America's Army: 2023 Year in Review" content series. To view the rest of the big Army news from this year, visit the website at Army.mil/YearInReview.
WASHINGTON — In 2023, the Army expanded the scale of training both domestically and abroad. The service continued to support humanitarian missions, both within the U.S. and overseas, while maintaining partnerships through agreements like the National Guard State Partnership Program.
The exercises strengthened the Army’s ability to fight alongside allies and partner nations across the globe, as the service looks to increase interoperability among partner nations while building the Army of 2030.
The Best Squad Competition, which finished in October, challenged Soldiers to be all they could be focusing on teamwork and pushing each other to their limits.
BEST SQUAD COMPETITION: This year the service provided more incentives to Soldiers competing for the title of U.S. Army Best Squad. Participants had the opportunity to earn special skills badges for different military occupational specialties. Soldiers could earn the Expert Soldier Badge, the Expert Infantry Badge or the Expert Medical Field Badge.
The 75th Ranger Regiment team from U.S. Army Special Operations Command won first place during the competition followed by a squad from Army Medical Command in second place. Soldiers tested their mettle on 20,000 acres of land at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Soldiers competed in ruck marches and land navigation exercises there, while operating on limited amounts of sleep.
NORTHERN STRIKE: The Army Reserve’s large-scale, deployment exercise added a new element this year: in-theater medical training. Participants simulated a medical evacuation flight during the Midwest-based training exercise from a site in Michigan to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, for additional treatment.
The Michigan National Guard has hosted the exercise since 2012 and expanded Northern Strike into a joint, multinational program based at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center at Camp Grayling, Michigan. More than 7,000 participants from across the U.S. and four nations took part in the annual exercise, where participants simulated joint integrated fires, command and control, and sustainment.
The training, which takes place across Michigan’s lower peninsula, including the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena County, the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, and Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport in Iosco County.
The National Guard deployed 134 troops to support the relief and response efforts following the devastating wind-driven wildfires in Hawaii in August. The Guard provided two CH-47 Chinook helicopters to aid search and recovery efforts, primarily over the island of Maui. National Guard Soldiers supported Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and local law enforcement as liaisons.
In a single day, Guard members dropped about 10,000 gallons of water during a five-hour period. Cartographers and geographers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used geographic information systems to provide relevant data to help government organizations develop and execute relief plans.
In August and September, about 5,000 members of the Florida National Guard and others activated to assist with disaster response efforts during Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall on Florida’s west coast.
Making a Difference Worldwide
NATIONAL GUARD STATE PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM: In 2023, the international program that aligns guard units with foreign partners celebrated three decades of cooperation and providing aid. The Army celebrated the program’s 30th anniversary in July at the National Harbor in Fort Washington, Maryland.
An already established partnership between U.S. forces and Ukraine helped aid the eventual Ukrainian war effort against Russia. Ukraine has held a partnership with the California National Guard since 1993, with Guard members training Ukrainian forces in capabilities such as firing FIM-92 Stingers, a mobile defense platform, and the FGM-148 Javelin, a portable shoulder-launched anti-tank system.
U.S. forces have also influenced Ukrainians on the battlefield, adopting a tactical model inspired by the Army’s non-commissioned officer corps.
U.S. European Command sought to establish a contact team in the Baltic region. The partnership program started with seven former Soviet nations and now includes more than 88 partnerships with more than 100 partner nations across all corners of the world
The program encourages personal ties at the state level among partner nations. Not only does the program support defense security, but also societal relationships that span into other areas of government and economy.
EXERCISE JUSTIFIED ACCORD: The Kenya-based multi-national exercise helped U.S. forces provide humanitarian assistance, engage in peacekeeping missions and crisis response.
Led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa , more than 20 countries participated in Justified Accord, the largest exercise in East Africa. Last February, Soldiers learned to perform humanitarian missions and took part in a multinational, live-fire training event. Planners also incorporated cyber-related simulations for the first time.
OPERATION TALISMAN SABRE: During this multinational, large scale exercise, U.S. and Australian forces sought to build a more persistent, secure network among the “Five Eyes” alliance of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The new network will be synchronized across the partner nations’ systems and save setup times by having network availability already in place. The network will help raise readiness levels and bring the service closer to the Army of 2030.
The development of the new network showcased one of the methods by which the Army and host Australia improved its network capabilities and interoperability among nations during Talisman Sabre. During the annual exercise, Hawaii and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, U.S. forces learned to operate in enemy and austere environments with challenging constraints and longer distances in the Indo Pacific.
The series of experiments, in accordance with the Army’s Data Strategy, allowed the U.S. and its allies to continually test network capabilities in a dozen different exercises.
JOINT EMERGENCY EXERCISE 23: Members of Special Forces and other experts from across the force trained Army physicians and medical personnel in realistic combat casualty care scenarios during Joint Emergency Exercise. During the exercises, Soldiers learned to integrate medical care into combat operations during simulated scenarios.
Hosted by the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, at Fort Cavazos, Texas, the exercise helped increase combat readiness and joint interoperability for more than 2,000 participants from the Army, Air Force, National Guard and Army Reserve. Service members representing 60 combat career specialties took part in the exercises.
U.S. ARMY EUROPE AND AFRICA EXERCISES: U.S. Army Europe and Africa command provides combat-ready, land forces ready to defend the region.
EXERCISE SABER JUNCTION: During this annual exercise in September, the Army, NATO and allied forces gathered in Germany to learn to operate as one.
Exercises centered around the Joint Multinational Readiness Center near Hohenfels, Germany, where 4,000 participants from 16 countries widened the scale of operations and learned to overcome linguistics, logistics and communications challenges. Soldiers also simulated using different weapons and systems and the treatment and evacuation of injured troops.
U.S. Soldiers and their NATO counterparts spent time learning how each other operates on the battlefield and the nuances in their strategies.
USAREUR-AF, comprised of about 41,000 troops on two continents, takes part in 18 major exercises including U.S. Africa Command’s largest multinational exercise, African Lion. This year, African Lion 23 took place across Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia in May and June 2023. The exercise included combined arms live fires, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear response training and three humanitarian assistance events.
In coordination with U.S. Army Futures Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa hosted Arctic Forge, a series of cold-weather exercises based in Scandinavia.
During Arctic Forge 23 last February, Soldiers from the 11th Airborne Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, New York, and the Virginia Army National Guard trained with the Finnish military.
U.S. Soldiers also took part in Defense Exercise North, where they drew from the Finnish troops’ frigid weather experience. The Soldiers operated in three feet of snow under subzero temperatures and learned how to operate in arctic conditions, including techniques used on skis to traverse across challenging terrain.
Allied Spirit began in 2011 and has grown from six nations in 2015 to 21 NATO countries and allies in 2023. Unlike other training center exercises, Allied Spirit features an allied unit comprised of partner nations as the primary training audience instead of a U.S. brigade combat team.
From strengthening ties with allied partners to saving lives during humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, the Army made a difference in forging relationships across the globe, and allowing Soldiers to be all that they can be.