by U.S. Army 1st Lt. James Phillips
126th Public Affairs Operations Center
August 18, 2018
Saber Strike 18, a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational training exercise in the Baltic region, does not just focus on armor, artillery, and air cavalry. Multinational service member support requires constant, completely-mobile medical readiness as well.
This task, in which simulated and real-life medical emergencies flow seamlessly into one another, would be all but impossible without the partnership and interoperability each country’s medical support component displays.
One such unit is the British Army Reserve’s 306th Hospital Support Regiment, based out of Yorkshire, Great Britain.
As a unit supporting the U.S. Army’s 212th Combat Support Hospital, based out of Miesau, Germany, the 306th HSR displays how the capabilities of partner nations easily strengthen one another in the field.
Maj. Rob Ducat, a training officer with the 306th HSR who is currently in his 42nd year of service, has seen nations support each other in training events all over the world.
While he is indeed a seasoned veteran, Saber Strike 18 showed something new to him.
“Saber Strike was absolutely essential for us,” he said. “We’ve gained more out of this experience than we’ve had in a long time.”
Ducat also said how the incredible amount of planning and preparation, which all had to fit within the approximately 19 reserve-training days allotted to a British Army Reserve unit, lead to the success the unit experienced this year in Poland.
Capt. Vandita Ralhan, a media adjutant with the 306th HSR, spoke plainly and positively about this process.
“Our time at the Army Medical Services Training Center, our pre-deployment training area, allowed us to take lessons from past exercises and truly learn them,” she said.
“Now, without a doubt, we know that we 100% can perform.”
At the 306th HSR’s assembly area for Saber Strike 18, near Swidwin Air Base, Poland, the capability of the regiment is on full display alongside their U.S. counterparts.
British and American soldiers stand near their ambulance vehicles, ready to speed off at a moment’s notice in the direction of simulated or real-world triage.
While they wait, they play at comparisons. The differences between each other’s weapons, uniforms, and accents are the main topics of conversation.
2nd Lt. Alec Schwartz, the officer-in-charge for the 477th Medical Company-Ground Ambulance, a U.S. Army Reserve unit based out of Duluth, Minnesota, which also supports the 212th CSH, is amazed at the opportunity to work with the British Army Reserve.
He sits on top of his Humvee, smiling as he watches his soldiers swap stories with their allies.
“The training here has been so valuable,” he said. “Whenever we go out on a mission, we make sure that at least one medic from the Brits is in the vehicle with our team, and vice versa.”
“This allows for all of us to learn a bit more about each other and our own jobs, because we get better at them by seeing how people in another country do them,” he said.
The day ends with a military “parade”. British, American, and Polish soldiers stand in formation in front of the combined might of each unit’s heavy vehicles.
When the commands are given, each component marches and halts after the fashion of its country’s military.
All service members execute these commands deftly. While there is a difference in each nation’s step, the dedication and pride each service member holds is uniformly evident.
Maj. Gen Bill O’Leary, the joint head of the British Army Reserve, makes these points clear as he addresses these service members with his closing remarks as the guest speaker for the event.
From his words, one gathers that the exercise was tough, long, and full of challenges, but the support provided by all of the units at this parade field resulted in its success.
This is all the more powerful when one remembers that the service members here who are reservists place a portion of their livelihoods on hold during Saber Strike 18.
“I’m an anaesthetic registrar at the John Radcliffe hospital [in Oxford, Great Britain] for my civilian job,” Ralhan said when asked about the impact of the exercise. “So yes, basically since September of last year things have been a bit difficult to balance.”
As Ralhan stands in front of the formation, reading off award citations for soldiers from three different countries, the success of her efforts clearly shows.
“Everyone here put so much into this exercise,” she said. I am glad that we all can see it now.”