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'Allied Spirit' Preps Troops for Combat

Michigan Army Guard element serves as lead advisor during high-intensity multinational training exercise in Germany
Soldiers practice a react-to-contact movement Jan. 22 during Allied Spirit IV, a multinational exercise at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. Photo by SSG Edward Siguenza
Soldiers practice a react-to-contact movement Jan. 22 during Allied Spirit IV, a multinational exercise at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. Photo by SSG Edward Siguenza

HOHENFELS, Germany More than 2,400 service members from seven nations recently concluded tactical training in the cold and snowy conditions of Bavaria, Germany, during Exercise Allied Spirit IV.

This multinational exercise, headquartered by the Italian Garibaldi Brigade, partners units from Europe and North America for more than two weeks of realistic, high-intensity training. The exercise prepares participants for various combat scenarios, such as conventional forces engagements, guerrilla warfare and reacting to chemical attacks. The purpose is to train brigade- and battalion-level commands that could encounter such scenarios on real-world battlefields.

Soldiers from Canada, Germany, Latvia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. participated in this year's exercise. Italy's Garibaldi Brigade took the helm of the exercise, giving the famed Italian infantry unit a rare opportunity to lead a multinational task force at an American installation in the heart of Europe.

"This provides us a lot of opportunities to train with our allies and partners," said Lieutenant Colonel Gennaro Troise, Garibaldi Brigade's chief public affairs officer. "The most important thing is for all of us to stay together, to cooperate with other nations. This is a multinational environment."

While the Garibaldi Brigade served as the brigade headquarters, an element of the Michigan Army National Guard served as lead advisor in the higher command.

The Michigan element, in conjunction with the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, or JMRC, exercise control cell, directed the battle, added some uncertainty and adjusted the fight to achieve the Rotational Training Units' training goals.

Participating U.S. Army units included the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The opposing forces for the exercise included 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, based at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, Hohenfels.

Five Army National Guard elements also participated, led by the Louisiana National Guard with more than 120 Soldiers. The Michigan National Guard provided nearly 50 troop, while Guard units from Ohio, Washington, DC, and California provided critical enablers to the exercise.

"We want to push them from their comfort zone and facilitate their learning," said Michigan National Guard Colonel Clark C. Barrett, commander of NATO Rapid Deployment Corps–Hohenfels. "It is our hope to not only learn from our allies, but also demonstrate the United States' overall support of the NATO mission."

The exercise focused on the interoperability and integration of multinational partners.

"With the Garibaldi Brigade serving as the headquarters element, Allied Spirit provides a unique opportunity for us as NATO allies to become stronger and more agile," said Brigadier General Christopher Cavoli, 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command commander and the exercise's senior trainer. "When allies train together in realistic, challenging tactical conditions, we are able to develop levels of interoperability that provide our leaders with options during times of crisis."

Troise, on behalf of Garibaldi Brigade commander Brigadier General Claudio Minghetti, said the Italians were honored to lead.

"It's important for us to implement our process," Troise said. "We may have a different approach to problems. This opportunity is important to show our experiences, and improve on them."

The Allied Spirit series of exercises is only one of about a dozen major exercises U.S. Army Europe conducts annually at JMRC. Hohenfels hosts other exercises, such as Combined Resolve, that similarly join multiple nations for interoperability training. JMRC boasts a 40,000-acre training facility with vast ranges and steep, forested terrain that can replicate many different environments. For these reasons, the facility has a reputation for being one of the most challenging training sites operated by the U.S. Army.

The Hohenfels Training Area, also known as “the Box," is where participants faced the elements, including extreme cold and snow, and encountered JMRC's varied terrain and obstacles. The line units tested their ability to respond to simulated threats, while all levels of command were challenged with decision-making and overall operational planning. Both levels were observed by coaches and trainers.

"This is a great opportunity to learn the operations of a high-level headquarters and build individual skills," Barrett said. "I want everyone to learn daily and go home knowing that they are better for it, and so are the units training in the Box."

In lieu of current threats, Allied Spirit promoted a notable cause, Barrett said. The NATO allies showed they can work together to resolve potential threats, safeguarding the freedom and security of its members through political and military means, which is a fundamental principle of the most successful alliance in history.

"Europe is experiencing lots of unanticipated change—economic crisis, refugee influx, etc.—in the last few years. Some of that change has the potential to spark violence or humanitarian crises," Barrett said. "When living together in a global community, we strengthen our security when we stand together." 

The Allied Spirit series of exercises originated in January of 2015. Troops from Hungary, Serbia, Czech Republic, Georgia and the United Kingdom have participated in previous Allied Spirit exercises.