HOHENFELS, Germany — More than 5,800 troops from 13 NATO and four partner nations are participating in Saber Junction 14, an annual U.S. Army Europe-led training exercise spread across four countries.
The bulk of the American forces involved in this year’s exercise comes from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, while troops from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Sweden and Ukraine make up the non-NATO forces involved.
The training began Aug. 25 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, with a simulated attack on the fictional town of Boyat.
The attack came from the northeast, heralded only by a single mortar blast. The townsfolk scattered as the sound of gunfire erupted from a wooded ridge 800 meters from the town border. Suddenly, a line of armored vehicles bursts into sight.
Capt. Aljosa Kaucevic, commander of the 1st Company, 20th Infantry Regiment, Slovenian armed forces, was one of the soldiers tasked with the defense of the shantytown.
“In the morning, once we entered the town, we first did a key leader engagement with the local leaders, where the mayor, police chief and the other elders were present. We talked about the situation. I informed them that there is an imminent threat from the Aranian forces — the enemies in this exercise — and that we’re here to provide them security and defend their town.”
In order to do that, Kaucevic’s soldiers had to repel an attack from the JMRC opposing forces team consisting largely of American and Lithuanian infantrymen. Soldiers from both sides wore MILES gear — the Army’s high-tech laser tag system.
U.S. Army instructors tossed flashbang grenades to simulate artillery strikes and grenade launches.
Casualties were marked both with a high-pitched whine from the MILES gear and a laminated card informing comrades of the type of injury that needed to be treated. All throughout the scenario, the Slovenian soldiers had to keep the town’s civilian population — all wearing their own MILES harnesses — alive.
“We accomplished the mission, which was to defend the town against the Aranian attack and to protect the civilian population. We were able to do both, so I view it as a success,” Kaucevic said. “I know as a company and everybody involved that we definitely gained some additional experience here because of the very real situation that has been projected from the civilians on the battlefield and the OPFOR. There is always room for improvement. You never do it perfectly, but I’m proud of my men.”
Saber Junction 14 continues with air-assault missions and mechanized unit rotations through the middle of September, leading up to a massive simulated force-on-force battle.