YAVORIV, Ukraine, Aug. 3, 2011 -- Secretary of the Army John McHugh visited the International Peacekeeping and Security Center here Aug. 3, to witness the multinational training going on during Rapid Trident 2011.

"This exercise has been ongoing for a good number of years," McHugh said. "It's obviously grown, it's evolved and I think personally it's more relevant than it ever has been in the past."

Rapid Trident 2011 is a U.S. Army Europe-led exercise designed to promote regional stability and security, strengthen international military partnering and foster trust while improving interoperability between participating nations and supporting interoperability among Ukraine, the United States, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations.

"Each year I think, as the military leaders of all the nations would agree, it's gotten better and better and the cooperation has been more and more successful," McHugh said.

During his visit, McHugh observed a multinational airborne operation, Medevac training and several situational training lanes. He also spoke with Soldiers to learn what they thought of Rapid Trident's multinational training environment.

"One of the things that I've been very impressed with as I've talked to United States Soldiers participating in this, is how valuable they have found the experience to be," he said. "It's good to get to know someone at this level, just to have that one to one relationship with the other nations that are participating here."

The exercise also demonstrated to McHugh the benefits of the U.S. Army's continued presence in Europe.

"I think there's great value to having our forces here for providing these kinds of opportunities that geographically would be so much more difficult, if even possible, in other environments," he said. "We have great friends throughout this part of the world, great partners, and I don't think there's any substitute for having the opportunity to co-locate and to live and learn together."

However, with the economic climate throughout the U.S. and the world, McHugh is also aware of the challenges that lay ahead for the U.S. Army and their partner nations.

"While we're going to be challenged, as all the militaries throughout this area will be in terms of the economy, we're going to meet those challenges and I'm very optimistic about a long continued commitment of the United States Army in Europe," he said. "The intent is to build partnerships, to build stability, and at the end of the day I think the thing we all take away from this is that the most valuable are those personal relationships."