SLOBOZIA, Romania – Four countries’ anthems filled the air as hundreds of Army Soldiers and NATO allies from Romania, Albania and Bulgaria stood in formation for the opening ceremony of Saber Guardian 23 on May 29.
“Today will mark the beginning of a series of tactical exercises,” said Brig. Gen. Iulian Daniliuc, Romania’s 2nd Infantry Division deputy commander. “More than ever, as you know what happens close to our borders. More than ever, the difficult, unconditional causes that warrant us to strengthen the resilience of our own group, NATO’s alliance, and defense capacity.”
Saber Guardian 23, Swift Response and Immediate Response are three linked exercises as part of Defender 23.
Defender 23 is a U.S. Army Europe and Africa-led exercise focused on the strategic deployment of continental U.S.-based forces, employment of Army prepositioned stocks, and interoperability with allies and partners.
Defender 23 will demonstrate USAREUR-AF’s ability to aggregate U.S.-based combat power quickly in Eastern Europe, increase the lethality of the NATO alliance through long-distance fires, build unit readiness in a complex joint, multinational environment, and leverage host nation capabilities to increase USAREUR-AF’s operational reach.
“Saber Guardian is the overarching exercise,” said Lt. Col. Marcus Young, 226th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade deputy commander. “It’s the third and final connected training event that ensures that all units are capable and ready.”
Saber Guardian 23, led by V Corps, deploys European-based forces via the Danube Delta to the Black Sea Region. Tactical actions are led by a Romanian multi-national Division and include a forward passage of lines, wet gap crossings, and Joint Forcible Entry operations.
“For the Alabama National Guard, it’s a continuation of our State Partnership Program,” Young said. “It’s also a time, as everyone knows what’s going on about 80 kilometers from here, a time for us to show our strength and our capabilities with our allied partners. We’re still strong, we’re still capable, and we’re highly motivated.”
Young said the 226th had back-to-back warfighter events before coming to Romania for Defender 23.
“Warfighter events are simulated,” Young said. “They’re all simulated, but here we’re going to have live units on the ground, and we are exercising our staff with real unit movement. This is a culminating event for us.”
The 226th will integrate the Romanian 1st Mechanized Brigade into the Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during the exercise. Young said this will be Romania’s first MEB.
“To do this on the 30th anniversary of our state partnership with Romania, it’s extra special for us,” he said.