HOHENFELS, Germany -- Soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard are using their skills and experience at a large-scale multinational exercise here at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.
The National Guard Soldiers are part of exercise Saber Junction 15, augmenting JMRC's full-time force of observers-coaches-trainers, a role that allows them to share their knowledge with leadership from partner countries.
JMRC's observers-coaches-trainer teams, known as OCTs, conceptualize, administer and monitor the bulk of the training at the JMRC. But the National Guard unit is beefing up JMRC's efforts.
"Building partnerships is important," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Washington, fire support noncommissioned officer for the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment in Worcester, Massachusetts. "With the current military climate, it is important to build relationships and partner with our NATO allies."
Saber Junction 15 is a multinational interoperability exercise at JMRC with 4,700 service members from 17 countries training to increase efficiency and build long-lasting relationships.
The exercise has been an opportunity for units to maneuver about a realistic battlefield while facing resistance similar to what they would encounter in a real battle. As an OCT, the Soldiers provided guidance to the units who were actively moving on the battlefield. From the beginning stages of delivering an operation order to the ending after action review, the OCTs provided insight on possible changes to increase proficiency and decrease hazards on the battlefield.
"Seeing units overcome problems and working alongside them to improve their tactics is the biggest advantage," Washington said. "It all comes down to simply helping a brother in another military. We are building friendships."
Beyond the coaching experience, the Soldiers appreciated the opportunity to work alongside other nations and embraced the chance to learn from new cultures.
"Anytime a unit gets the chance to work with units outside the state, it is beneficial," Washington said. "We learn something new, and it will improve our unit and make us that much better."
Working with other nations is not always easy, however. Many of the multinational soldiers spoke little English, making it more difficult to communicate effectively.
"This environment forces us to learn to work with language barriers and find ways to overcome the barriers," said Staff Sgt. Armand Hunter, with headquarters of the 101st Field Artillery Regiment in Brockton, Massachusetts. "We have to get creative about getting our point across."
Despite any challenges that working with Soldiers from another cultural background may have caused, Soldiers still built a trusting relationship with their multinational partners.
"Being here has opened my eyes to the capabilities our partners have and makes me feel confident about working with them in a real-world mission," Hunter said.
As the exercise continued, the OCTs provided feedback on how the units have progressed during the battle simulation.
"Everybody is here to learn," Washington said. "We get to make the mistakes here so we don't make them downrange."
The opportunity to train at JMRC is one the Soldiers found invaluable.
"We have built relationships that are more than just training relationships," said Capt. Matthew Tina with the 1-181st IN. "We are sharing experiences we wouldn't get anywhere else."
In addition to the 1-181st IN and the 101st FA, the 2nd Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment and the 101st Engineer Battalion worked as OCTs at Saber Junction 15.
"The military works on a global stage," Tina said. "It is important now more than ever to build bonds with allies."
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