A Stryker combat vehicle maneuvers along a tank trail during Saber Junction 2012 on Oct. 13. The U.S. Army in Europe's exercise Saber Junction trains U.S. personnel and more than 1,800 multinational partners from 18 European nations, ensuring interoperability between forces and an agile, ready coalition force. (Gertrud Zach / Army)
To train for the future, U.S. Army Europe is looking to the past.
This month’s Exercise Saber Junction is part of the Army’s return to force-on-force preparation, which has for a decade played second fiddle to counterinsurgency training.
The live and virtual multinational exercise is part of the Decisive Action Training Environment program, which lets soldiers practice sustained land operations. U.S. Army Europe and 19 other nations will use 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of maneuver area that extends between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in Germany.
Saber Junction harkens back to the ’70s and ’80s, when Exercise Reforger had international troops doing force-on-force training together outside of established training areas — and driving on the Autobahn, no less.
The wide area allows troops to practice rapid deployment, wide-area security procedures, and combined arms missions. In addition to Strykers used by the 2nd Cavalry Regiment as part of the multinational blue force, the exercise incorporates jets, helicopters, infantry fighting vehicles, wheeled vehicles and tracked vehicles.
Conducting operations outside of the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels also puts troops in direct contact with everyday civilians as they travel the roads. According to the Army, Saber Junction is the largest U.S. Army European training event outside of the training areas in 20 years and involves more than 1,700 foreign personnel.
Although the exercise is primarily live, there is also an element of virtual training. Simulations from a brigade in Vicenza, Italy, are being incorporated so that higher commands have more than one unit to control, according to Col. Jeff Meeker, director of the Joint Multinational Simulation Center at Grafenwoehr.
JMSC is also sending the common operating picture from the exercise to both the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and the Joint Readiness and Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
“This is more of a proof of principle to ensure we can exchange digits between the combat training centers for the possibility of linking exercises between the U.S. Army Europe and the CTCs back in the states,” Meeker said.
Saber Junction is also intended to improve interoperability between the different nations. The 19 countries participating in the exercise with the United States include Italy, Germany, France and the U.K. U.S. military officials have stated that there will be a renewed focus on joint and international training.
“What the U.S. is going to move to is a rotational force concept where, as we work with nations, we will rotate forces into different regions in order to work through and build strong relationships with our allies and partners in all these different regions,” said Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff for the U.S. Army, in a June speech.
Exercise Saber Junction runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30. The first two weeks have primarily been staging and command post exercises.