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U.S., NATO Conclude Saber Strike 17 Exercise

  • Published
  • By Air Force Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh
  • 86th Airlift Wing

About 11,000 U.S. and NATO service members from 20 countries concluded the Saber Strike 17 exercise here on June 24.

The exercise took place in various regions in the Baltics and Poland from May 28-June 24.

Saber Strike 17 is a long-standing Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed, U.S. European Command-scheduled, U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise.

Multinational Exercise

Participating nations in this year’s exercise included Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

This year’s key training objective was to exercise with NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups as part of a multinational division, while conducting an integrated, synchronized, deterrence-oriented field training exercise designed to improve the interoperability and readiness of participating nations’ armed forces.

“Less than one year ago, our alliance said we were going to transition from assurance to deterrence,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe. “One of the manifestations of that transition was the creation of the eFP Battlegroups. In less than one year, these battle groups are exercising already in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. That is an amazing accomplishment for our great alliance.

Hodges added, “Deterrence means you have to have the capability to compel or defeat a potential adversary. You have to demonstrate that capability and the will to use it, and these exercises are that demonstration.”

Key Training Events

Key training events of the exercise included a convoy by Battlegroup Poland, from Orysz, Poland, to southern Lithuania; a maritime prepositioned offload of prestaged supplies and equipment in Latvia; a Marine amphibious assault in Latvia; two combined arms live-fire exercises, one each in Poland and Lithuania; an air assault by the British Royal Marines at the Polish and Lithuanian border; and a river crossing in the same area.

“If you would like to have skilled soldiers, you have to train every day,” said Latvian Army Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Leonids Kalnins. “If you would like to be safe as a state, you have to find allies; but if you would like to be the winner and create a great future for all countries, for all society, you have to participate in such exercises as this one.”

The Saber Strike exercise series facilitates cooperation between the U.S, allied, and partner nations to improve joint operational capability in a variety of missions and prepare participating nations and units for future operations while enhancing the NATO alliance.

During the exercise, U.S. and NATO distinguished visitors attended a demonstration of the joint and combined capabilities of the U.S. and NATO here.

‘NATO Allies Working Together’

One of the visitors was Nancy Bikoff Pettit, U.S. ambassador to Latvia, who spoke about the importance of the exercise.

“I think exercises like this send a very strong message,” she said. “It’s not only the U.S. who is interested in security and defense here in the Baltic region, it’s all of our NATO allies working together.

Bikoff Pettit added, “This exercise demonstrates what happens when many NATO allies come together to cooperate and demonstrate the interoperability that we have. We are really pleased with the quality of the exercises.”

Saber Strike 17 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. The combined training opportunities that it provided greatly improve interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners.

“The U.S. is here,” Hodges said. “We’re going to continue to participate in exercises; American soldiers love serving with Latvian soldiers. This is a great place to train, and we’re excited about doing that for as [long] as I can see.”

As the seventh iteration of this exercise, Saber Strike 17 continues to provide a venue for U.S. and NATO military members to train and learn from one another to form a stronger partnership.

Pennsylvania Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Max Langford, a boom operator with the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, refuels a U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command B-52 Stratofortress during exercise Saber Strike 17 above Riga, Latvia, June 13, 2017. Langford, along with other boom operators from the 171st ARS, refueled B-52s and B-1B Lancers throughout the exercise. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh