HOHENFELS TRAINING AREA, Germany — A chilly wind rolls over the hilltops and through a forward operating base here. Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment start the engines of their armored vehicles and put on their Kevlar helmets, body armor and eye protection to prepare for the long day ahead. Danger is hidden somewhere in the woods, ready to move against these soldiers. But the Stryker troops are ready.
This scene played out time and again as the 2nd SCR spent the month of March completing a Mission Rehearsal Exercise to prepare for its deployment to Afghanistan this summer. Approximately 3,5oo Stryker soldiers trained in many different fields of expertise -- including basic soldier skills, field medical tasks and maintaining and operating unmanned aerial vehicles -- to prepare for their deployment.
The meat and potatoes of the exercise were daily scenarios that required soldiers to perform tasks such as clearing routes, assisting local residents, gathering intelligence and conducting security patrols.
"The patrol exercises challenged soldiers to work with locals to establish good relationships and provide citizens with needed supplies while gathering information about insurgents," said Sgt. Luis A. Jimenez, a Stryker armored vehicle commander for “Bulldog Company,” 1st Squadron, 2nd SCR. Comparing the training to his own previous 16-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jimenez said the MRE is very realistic.
The addition of international role-players to portray Afghan citizens boosted the exercise’s realism. These actors are placed in mock villages that simulate towns in Afghanistan, where soldiers must interact with “local citizens” just as they will while deployed.
Being able to engage with “local” citizens and leaders during training provides valuable skills that pay off during deployment, said Jimenez.
Working with the role-players helps soldiers understand that the unit’s missions are about building good relations, not just about kicking down doors, added Sgt. Jan Krieg of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Squadron, 2nd SCR.
More than 700 military and civilian personnel from across U.S. Army Europe supported the training, including more than 200 who acted as observer-controllers to oversee the different training scenarios and provide command and control, said Maj. Nick Sternberg, public affairs officer for the Joint Multinational Readiness Center here. Another 700 soldiers and civilian employees assigned to JMRC provided operational support and the opposing forces – “the enemy” – for the MRE, he said.
"Bringing members of many different organizations together to assist in the training helps soldiers feel more confident about deployment," said Jimenez. It was a cold month in the field and the hours were long, but the soldiers of the 2nd SCR wrapped up their exercise one step closer to a successful deployment.