NEWS | July 6, 2017

Ohio National Guard conducts water crossing exercises with Hungarian forces

By Sgt. Shiloh Capers U.S. Army

GYOR, Hungary - U.S. and Hungarian forces conducted a tactical bridge and water crossing of the Danube River at Gyor on Wednesday.

Szentes Axe, a Hungarian national exercise, facilitates the freedom of movement for 2nd Cavalry Regiment as the unit crosses from Hungary and into Romania for more training opportunities.

The exercise falls under Saber Guardian, a U.S. European Command Joint Exercise Program. The annual, multinational exercise is the largest to occur in the Black Sea Region, spanning three countries.

The exercise included the Ohio Army National Guard, a partner with Hungary in the State Partnership Program. Also participating: The 25th Infantry Brigade from Hungarian Ground Forces, which operated equipment and deployed assets to create a path, facilitating movement for following forces. Two PMP pontoons, guided by RPP M68 tugboats, safely connected and spanned the banks of the river. Nearby, another pontoon acted as a ferry with more tugboats providing additional maneuverability across the river.

The river crossing provided additional opportunities with multiple levels of training. A man overboard scenario was included in the exercise, with a team and watercraft nearby for a swift recovery. An enemy helicopter, portrayed by the Hungarian Air Force, fired upon the bridge and river crossing before being disabled by prepared friendly forces.

PMP bridges, armored personnel carriers, PTS amphibious vehicles are several of the various Hungarian assets used in the river crossing.

The exercise, which was completed in approximately one hour, was a year-long process to plan and create. Most of the personal interactions between the Ohio National Guard and Hungarian Ground Forces occurred in the last six months.

One of the most difficult pieces to the operation was synchronization, said Brig. Gen. Gabor Horvath, commander of the 25th Infantry Brigade, Hungarian Defense Forces. The activity of the different players in the exercise was an experiment.

Rehearsals gave the forces time to train together and learn different styles of equipment. The units took advantage during this time to try new procedures and test ideas.

"We have different kinds of equipment, so we need to know what is expected from each other during the exercise technically and what is expected from the human side as well," Horvath said. "The take away from this should be procedural, technical and human as well."

Exercises like Szentes Axe, or Saber Guardian, create unique training opportunities with Allies.

The conditions benefit the smaller European countries and neighbors, said Horvath. The smaller countries must work together in order to provide a credible defense and deterrence.

The participation of Ohio, Hungary's state partner, in the exercise is most welcome and always appreciated. The friendship dates back to 1993, when Hungary and Ohio first paired together in the State Partnership Program. Years of relations include serving together in Afghanistan and multiple training exercises.

Szentes Axe provided a new opportunity for both the Ohio National Guard and the Hungarian Defense Forces.

"This is the first time we have an engineer unit from the Ohio National Guard and we could practice specific engineer training together with them," Horvath said. "I think this is a success story and this should be continued."