HOHENFELS, Germany - National Guard service members from 119th Sapper Engineer Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, based in Moundsville, West Virginia, trained on war-fighting and combat engineer tactics at the 7th Army Training Command's Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany on Sept. 26, alongside NATO allies and partners participating in Saber Junction 18.
Saber Junction 18 is the 173rd Airborne Brigade's combat training center certification exercise, taking place on the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas from Sept. 4 - Oct. 1, 2018. The U.S. Army Europe-directed exercise is designed to assess the readiness of the brigade to accomplish two objectives: conduct unified land operations in a joint, combined environment, and to promote interoperability with nearly 5,500 participating allies and partner nations.
"For this mission, we were part of the opposing force to the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team." said Sgt. Jacob Robinson, a team leader, 119th Sapper Company. "We had to protect an airfield from the Americans using it for resupply purposes. It trained us on our tasks as engineers, building obstacles, laying minefields, supporting fighting positions - , always on our secondary mission as infantrymen."
Robinson is one of several combat engineers on his first overseas training mission. He and others elaborated on what engineers bring to the table during the exercise.
"We're multi-purpose," said Sgt. Ashli Richards, a team leader, 119th Sapper Engineer Company. "A lot of the military can use the engineers for their operations, such as being able to identify a minefield, recommending an alternate route the unit can take on their way somewhere, and clearing obstacles with demolitions if need be."
Richards is one of the first female Soldiers in West Virginia to attend and graduate the Combat Engineer Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She and many of the Soldiers in the engineering company had their first experience working with multi-national military forces in an overseas training environment.
Capt. Bryan Pauley, commander, 119th Sapper Co., said working with the Bulgarian and Ukrainian light infantry forces fostered cooperation, firmness and collaboration on their methods of war fighting.
"Their leaders have different leadership styles," said Pauley. "I found myself saying, ‘That's a good idea, and have you maybe thought of this?' I said things like, ‘Hey that's a great plan, I'll bet we can improve on that.' They picked up on that quickly and they were always thankful and our fighting side by side with them as riflemen fostered better ways for us to help them protect themselves and ourselves."
Coming up next for the engineering company will be a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 2019.
"I hope what we've learned here as a unit becomes a new standard, a new benchmark to get better," said Pauley. "We want to build on this first time overseas training experience, so the next time we are overseas, either here or somewhere else, we are even more ready."