CAMP ADAZI, Latvia – A squad of Latvian Army soldiers lays down small arms fire, while a US Stryker from the Pennsylvania National Guard works into position, over-watched by Soldiers from the 31 Canadian Brigade Group, and supported by mortar fire from the Unites States Marine Corps’ 4th Marine Division and A10s from the Michigan Air National Guard. Such a truly varied multinational force was the standard operating procedure at the Situational Training Exercise Lanes conducted at Camp Adazi, Latvia June 11-15 as part of exercise Saber Strike 2012.
Soldiers from Estonian, Latvia, Lithuania, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, who have all contributed significantly to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, trained together in preparation for upcoming deployments to the International Security and Assistance Forces in Afghanistan.
“We have served and sacrificed together, so it only makes sense to train together,” said Lt. Col. Donna Fanning, commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command Special Troops Battalion, who contributed troops to the exercise.
The STX lanes 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.
Convoy operations trained the soldiers in planning and conducting convoys, and reacting to various situations that can arise on convoys in a combat zone.
“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.”
The urban patrol featured soldiers actually conducting patrols in a local Latvian town, and speaking with city officials just as soldiers do in Afghanistan when patrolling in Afghan villages and conducting key leader engagements, speaking and building relationships with local authorities.
For the base defense lane, soldiers defended a simulated forward operating base that was designed to replicate those commonly used by ISAF forces in Afghanistan. Soldiers coordinated their actions with supporting units to ensure unity of effort. While doing this, they also had to effectively employ supporting mortar fires, and combat air support, including A-10 attack aircraft. During the counter-IED lane, soldiers from the participating nations shared their best tactics, techniques and procedures for preventing and responding to IED attacks.
“It was interesting to train with the Latvians today just to see how they did things, and they were asking us how we did things,” said Master Corporal Graham McDonald with the 31 Canadian Brigade Group. “I take this seriously and I want to do everything I can for my country, my military and my brothers in arms.”
For the STX portion of the exercise, the soldiers were divided into six companies that featured platoons from different partner nations operating together within the company.
This forced the soldiers to learn to communicate with one another across equipment and language barriers, and to learn each other’s techniques to better support one another.
“When we have Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and all the other troops here, it is a fantastic opportunity to learn from one another,” said Latvian Army Lt. Col. Gunars Kaulins, commander of the Saber Strike 2012 Field Training Exercise at Camp Adazi, Latvia.
With the STX complete, soldiers will take a short break for a cultural awareness and sports competition day before transitioning to the Field Training Exercise where the six companies will operate together under the command of a multinational battalion headquarters conducting operations that incorporates all the tasks learned during the STX training.