As the sun begins to set on the Lithuanian countryside, the final
touches are put on the camouflage netting designed to break the
silhouette and conceal the position of the Tactical Action Center,
or TAC, of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry
Division on June 17, 2017. As part of the multinational exercise of
Saber Strike '17, the 1/34th ABCT is providing support to the Air
Assault Task Force Commander, Col. Charles Kemper.
first ever combined air and ground assault in the annual Saber
Strike exercise, this year's exercise has set a milestone in testing
the compatibility of seven nations and all military branches.
June 17, 2017 - Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team,
34th Red Bull Infantry Division, participate in Saber Strike 17 in
Lithuania. Saber Strike is a U.S. Army Europe-led multilateral,
multifaceted, security cooperation exercise primarily focused on the
Baltic States. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Boecker)
"We want to reassure all of our NATO Allies that we are
in this together," said Kemper. "We're part of the team and
we can demonstrate capability."
Kemper also stated
that the U.S. is beyond just assurance; we've moved to
deterrence. We are going to deter anyone who poses a threat
to our NATO Allies and demonstrate our capability to let
them know that we are an alliance that is going to stand
ready with our partners.
"This exercise is designed
to build and increase the interoperability of all NATO
contributing countries allowing us to boost our capability
to react quickly to any world threat that occurs," said
Capt. Josip Jurjevich, a Croatian Air Force helicopter pilot
attached to the 1/34th ABCT Aviation element.
Throughout the planning process, American Soldiers, Sailors
and Airmen worked side-by-side with service members from the
United Kingdom, Poland, Croatia, Lithuania and Portugal,
testing their ability to work together as one cohesive unit
and ultimately forming a NATO enhanced Forward Presence, or
eFP, Battle Group.
A challenge that takes time to
overcome is the fact that you are taking people from
different sides of the world to work together on the same
mission when they don't have the same ways or customs of
doing things, said Jurjevich. Saber Strike is a great
opportunity for all participating nations and units to gauge
where they are in regards to working as a cohesive unit.
During the planning process, the U.S. aviation planner
implemented input from the two Croatian pilots attached to
the TAC to plan helicopter air corridors from the Pickup
Zone to the Landing Zone. Their counterpart took their input
into consideration and implemented it into the overall
"Even if something is better than our
process, that is great, we've learned something, or if it's
not, then we can bring something forward for them to learn,"
With all seven nations converging at
the Kazlu Ruda airstrip, the newly-formed Task Force Red
Bull conducted an air mission brief and a combined arms
rehearsal. These two briefings are held to work out the
final details of the air and ground force to ensure all
nations and their assets are marching to the same drum.
Improving overall coordination and professional
relationships with Allies and partner militaries during this
exercise has become a focal point for all those involved. A
strong foundation of trust is crucial when forming a
relationship with members of the NATO alliance.
Tight living quarters shorten the period of time it takes to
become comfortable with one another, said 1st Lt. Josip
Perich, another Croatian Air Force helicopter pilot attached
to the 1/34th ABCT. "With 18 of us crammed into only two
trucks working together on the mission, we are able to
develop trust and confidence in one another very quickly."
A pre-established relationship between nations
through exercises like Saber Strike is meant to lay footwork
for a long-lasting rapport with all of our fellow NATO
"We were like a family in two small trucks,
working together, sweating together for the same collective
mission," said Perich.
By U.S. Army Sgt. William Boecker
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