In this file photo, Spc. Shawn Spafford, an infantryman assigned to Charlie Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard, poses with an American Flag on the beach occupied by his troop during exercise Talisman Saber, July 14, 2017 at Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, Australia. During the exercise, a series of war games, New York Army National Guard Soldiers fought against, and alongside Australian and New Zealand personnel. (Photo by Spc. Alexander Rector)
Paratroopers of 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division communicate friendly unit locations with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force paratroopers using hand and arm signals during Exercise Talisman Saber in Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Australia July 14, 2017. (Photo by U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Love)
WASHINGTON -- Across the globe, the U.S. Army is strong, dependable ally and partner for many countries. This level of seamless cooperation was on strong display in 2017, as the U.S. conducted multiple training exercises and operations with its allies abroad to promote international security. Here are two of the year's most significant, intensive exercises that strengthened the enduring partnerships between the U.S. and allied countries.
Operation Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to collective security through a series of actions and exercises designed to reassure NATO allies and partners of America's dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.
"This is all about deterrence," said Lt. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, who retired in early December. "To deter, you have to have real capability and demonstrate the will to use that capability."
Hodges declared 2017 as "Year of Execution" this past January during the annual U.S. Army Europe Commander's Conference in Weisbaden, Germany. He said the "Year of Execution" signified U.S. Army Europe's commitment to implementing the strategic decisions of the alliance.
U.S. Army Europe demonstrated its deterrence capability earlier this year when more than 6,000 Regionally Allocated Forces rapidly deployed across 5,000 miles of ocean with approximately 3,800 pieces of their own equipment, ready to respond at a moment's notice in support of Atlantic Resolve and other joint and multinational efforts.
"This rotational force, deploying with its full complement of equipment, put U.S. armor and aviation back into Europe on a continuous basis for the first time since 2013," said Hodges. "Their forward presence is the bedrock of our country's ability to assure allies, deter adversaries and posture to act quickly if deterrence fails."
The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division's deployment in support of Atlantic Resolve marked the beginning of a continuous U.S. armored and aviation brigade presence in Europe. The start of heel-to-toe rotations, made possible by the European Reassurance Initiative, is a strong signal of the United States' ironclad commitment to strengthening the defensive and deterrence capabilities of the alliance.
"We were very fortunate to be put in the middle of this type of environment," said Col. Christopher Norrie, former commander of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. "Within 10 days of the first piece of equipment being offloaded from the ships in Germany, Iron Brigade tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles units were firing live ammunition rounds down range in Poland, demonstrating the ability to move and assemble Soldiers and equipment to be ready to fight if necessary."
In the first half of their nine-month rotation, the brigade completed eight large-scale movements (battalion-sized or larger). This included assembling the entire brigade in Poland upon arrival; moving three combined-arms battalions to Germany, the Baltics and Black Sea region from Poland; moving the brigade headquarters and three battalions to Germany for exercise Combined Resolve VIII in April; and relocating the brigade headquarters and five of seven battalions to Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary for exercise Saber Guardian in July.
Through rotational deployments and exercises, U.S. Army forces will continue to maintain a persistent presence in Poland and the Baltics. Other training events that took place this year as part of Atlantic Resolve included Combined Resolve in Germany, Saber Strike in the Baltic region, Rapid Trident in Ukraine, and Saber Guardian in Bulgaria.
Australia is not for the faint of heart. Scorpions, snakes, and spiders lurk in the Australian Outback; treacherous terrain crisscrosses the northeastern countryside; extreme temperature shifts can swelter during the day and chill to the bone at night.
For the more than 33,000 U.S. and Australian personnel participating in the biennial military training exercise Talisman Saber 2017 in Australia during June and July, these challenges were just minor nuisances compared to the grueling training exercises they conducted.
Talisman Saber, jointly sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defence Force Headquarters Joint Operations Command, incorporated the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force and the Australian Defence Force, as well as other government agencies from each country.
In addition to Talisman Saber, he U.S. and Australia also train and work together in a variety of exercises and missions throughout the year, including working together on humanitarian and civic assistance missions in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
For the Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, also known as the "Tropic Lightning Soldiers," Talisman Saber 17 kicked off with a 19-hour direct flight for a task force of paratroopers a company from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
The paratroopers conducted a forced entry parachute assault from six Royal Australian Air Force and United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo planes into the rugged terrain near Williamson Airfield in central Queensland to secure the airfield and establish a strategic blocking position on the battlefield. Once in place, the Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division then executed a prearranged hand-over to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment task force and Australian soldiers of 3rd Brigade.
"Talisman Saber is an excellent builder of readiness, both multinational readiness and unilateral readiness within the United States Army. Being able to train with our allies and partners brings about a level of readiness that is not achievable anywhere else," according to Lt. Col. Josh Davis, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment.
"We get the opportunity in the States to train in the deserts of California, the woodlands of Louisiana, and the mountainous and freezing Arctic conditions of Alaska, but being able to train somewhere you're not accustomed to, brings a level of readiness and confidence that the Soldiers would just not get anywhere else," he said.
(Editor's Note: This article is part of a series reflecting on the top Army events of 2017. This article is a compilation of three different articles, whose links are below: "The Year of Execution: US Army Europe rotational forces in action" by Staff Sgt. Tamika Dillard, "Exercise Talisman Saber highlights enduring US and Australia alliance" by Russell Goemaere, and "Army Soldiers prove their mettle, readiness in Australian exercise" by Sgt. Frank Strumila.)