After two weeks of intense training, about 2,000 troops from eight nations begin to pack up and head home from five locations spread across Estonia and Latvia as exercise Saber Strike 2012 comes to an official close following ceremonies in Tapa, Estonia, and Adazi, Latvia. The troops will leave having made new friends, learned new techniques, and developed the confidence that they will be able to better operate together in upcoming deployments to Afghanistan.
“Saber Strike 2012 has been a tremendous success strategically, operationally and tactically,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Hendrix, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army’s 21st Theater Sustainment, and acting exercise co-director, during closing comments at Adazi, Latvia. “We have improved our interoperability, refined our tactics techniques and procedures, and most of all, prepared those of you who will soon go into harm’s way.”
Saber Strike 2012 is a multinational, tactical field training exercise that involves personnel from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the 4th U.S. Marine Division, the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian armed forces, with contingents from Canada, Finland, France and the U.K. The exercise, led by U.S. Army Europe, is designed to enhance joint and combined interoperability between the U.S. Army and partner nations, and will help prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, interagency, integrated environment.
The exercise began with sitruational training exercise (STX) lanes in Adazi that included six tasks commonly performed by units serving in Afghanistan; convoy operations, urban patrolling, base defense, cordon and search, Counter-Improvised Explosives Device operations, and medical evacuation.
While the STX lanes were conducted in Adazi, sites in Estonia were conducting academic training in military decision making and operations at the multinational brigade and higher levels.
After a short break, in which participating troops held sports events and visited local cities as part of a ‘cultural day,’ the exercise moved into its second week, when operations stepped up the pace a bit.
In Adazi, a battalion headquarters, with companies from the five nations participating in the event, conducted 24-hour operations that included all of the major tasks trained during the STX lanes. This gave the participating troops the opportunity to put all of these tasks together into one major field operation.
Meanwhile, the training sites in Estonia put into action the military decision making process, and other headquarters operations many of them will have to conduct in future deployments to multinational headquarters organizations in Afghanistan.
“This is absolutely great training,” said Sgt. Christopher Whims, with the 4th Marine Division. “We worked, the day before, with the Estonians and learned quite a bit about how they run their convoy operations. Then today we worked with the Lithuanians. It was just absolutely a great experience.”
While the tasks and operations the troops trained in were very much the same tasks many of them will employ in Afghanistan, the real training value was in the ability for all of the nations to train together with the very nations with whom they will stand shoulder-to-shoulder in harm’s way, according to Latvian Army Lt. Col. Gunars Kaulins, commander of the Field Training Exercise at Camp Adazi, Latvia.
“When we have Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and all the other troops here, it is a fantastic opportunity to learn from one another,” he said.
The Saber Strike series of exercises is set to continue next year with Lithuania as the hosting nation.