HOHENFELS, Germany – Eight partner nations joined active Army and National Guard Soldiers to serve as the opposing force (OPFOR) during exercise Saber Junction 18, Sept. 4 to-Oct. 1 at the 7th Army Training Command's Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.
Saber Junction 18 is the 173rd Airborne Brigade's combat training center certification exercise, designed to assess the brigade's readiness and interoperability in a joint, combined environment with the 20 participating Ally and partner nations.
Among the 5,500 participants are 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, based in Hohenfels; 926th Mobility Augmentation Company, Louisiana National Guard; 119th Sapper Company, West Virginia National Guard; and Soldiers from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Macedonia and Ukraine, which are serving as OPFOR.
Lt. Lyova Khachatryan, Peacekeeping Brigade, Armenia army, expressed his appreciation for multinational opportunities.
"It is always interesting to understand how the other countries and armies operate," said Khachatryan. "Having an interoperable unit will always increase the readiness of our army."
According to Army Regulation 350-2, the OPFOR is used in lieu of a specific threat force for training and is tailored to replicate highly capable conventional and unconventional threats. The 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, combines U.S. and partner nations to provide OPFOR operations for exercises in Europe.
"We provide OPFOR for anyone coming to Hohenfels and do exchanges with other multinational training centers in Europe or send our soldiers out to support," said Capt. Clinton Harvin, assistant operations officer, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. "This rotation and Combined Resolve 10, had the most multinational augmentations, to include one of our two enduring partnerships, the Latvians."
Harvin continued about the added value diversity brings to the OPFOR.
"Partnering allows us to share different information and be more interoperable with resources in portraying the threat," said Harvin. They come eager to learn, we learn a lot from them as well.
The West Virginia National Guard participated in the exercise for the first time and was responsible for the engineering and build-out of structures, fighting positions and barriers around the manufactured town used to simulate an area of conflict.
Staff Sgt. Jacob Robinson, combat engineer team leader, 119th Sapper Engineer Company, West Virginia National Guard, spoke about working with, and alongside, the Bulgarian and Ukrainian forces.
"They are very motivated and do not want to lose," said Robinson. "While we're providing them an opposing force with engineer capabilities against the (Blue Forces), which is the 173rd IBCT, it also trains us on our tasks and secondary objective as infantrymen."
With a similar sentiment as his partners, First Lt. Phillip Bougere, commander, 926th Mobility Augmentation Company, Louisiana National Guard, shared that the exercise helps sharpen his Soldier's skills while learning to work with partner nations in a different environment.
"This experience has definitely broadened every single one of us from top to bottom," said Bougere. "Just being here meeting the multinationals working out of your comfort zone, doing things that are not in your MOS. Each Soldier will have something to take back home."